It’s circus time at the Birmingham Rep as the Cirque Beserk sets up the big top. Richard Lutz was there with a helper.
The circus is suspension of belief. And now that most of the spectacles have left out the animals to fit in with modern times, it means acts need to be more polished, more fantastic, more energised to make up for the lack of mangy lions, clapping seals and prancing ponies.
Cirque Berserk is on at the Rep for the week. It takes the Big Top onto the stage and – luckily – it is a big stage, as any theatregoer knows. So, we get a continual roll call of acrobats, contortionists, knife throwers, flame jugglers and – the top stunt – a metal caged globe with four motorcycles roaring and buzzing inside like a nest of angry wasps.
But what better way to gauge this show than to take along a kid.
Six year old Ique helped me out. I have to say, to his parents’ chagrin, that some of the stunts took him to such dizzy heights that he let his ice cream melt all over his shirt. I guess you could call that a mark of rapt and excited satisfaction.
The clown interludes he put at the top. Tweedy, with his Scottish accent, did wonders with ladders, ropes, trick bicycles and a hat that wouldn’t stay on his head. All three of his turns worked wonders. A real pro.
Number Two, according to my fellow critic, was that quartet of scrambler bikes that circled the so-called Globe Of Terror. Hardened parents held their breaths as a stagehand stood by with a fire extinguisher. “I thought they would crash,” my colleague told me. So did I.
Ique said that the third best performance was the giant robot that seemed to appear when things slowed down a bit. Fire flew from its metallic arms and it stomped to ominous music. And though it had nothing to do with circus skills, the kids in the packed Rep audience would agree with my man that the metal monster was a winner.
The whole show acoustically wallpapered the theatre with a wave of ramped up electro-pop music. By the end of the evening, it had drilled into my cranium. And some of the lighting hid the performers, especially the aerial acts, rather than highlight their expertise.
And of course, there’s the elemental tackiness of a circus whether on a piece of muddy ground or in a main stream theatre. You always feel there’s a tinge of seediness just off the main stage. But it’s easy to get picky. Ique and all the other kids on half term loved it. And, really, that’s what counts.
Until 26th February. Tickets from www.birmingham-rep.co.uk