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Cirque Berserk at the Orchard Theatre: Review

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Review by Liz Dyer.

Have you ever thought about running away to join the circus? Well, be warned – it’s not necessarily as easy as you might think.

Cirque Berserk, founded by Martin Burton (aka Zippo the Clown), brings together a cast of 35 performers from all over the world in a high-adrenaline, jaw-dropping, heart-stopping show. Trapeze artists, acrobats, jugglers and a knife thrower are just a few of the traditional circus acts given a contemporary twist by the company who take pride in promising ‘real circus, made for theatre’. And for the first time on their 2016 tour, which kicks off this week at the Orchard, audiences have a chance to see the Globe of Terror, an act so dangerous it’s never been performed in theatres before.
With one understandable exception, none of the performers wears a safety harness, so there’s a very real chance that someone could get seriously hurt at any moment. The incredible acts and that added thrill of danger make for a hugely entertaining show; the audience’s gasps of amazement were proof of that – even if most of us were watching from behind our hands.

It’s not all daredevil stunts, though. Tweedy the clown provides some welcome comic relief, to give us all time to get our breath back – although even he has his moments (knife juggling on a unicycle, anyone?). Dancers keep the audience entertained whenever there’s a pause to set up for the next act, and there’s also a giant robot who walks onto the stage spewing fire a couple of times – although the reasons for this are slightly unclear, that doesn’t make him any less impressive a sight.

In such an action-packed show, it’s hard to pick out highlights, but let’s give it a try: Toni the knife thrower’s act is genuinely terrifying, as he hurls all manner of weapons at his smiling wife. I watched Germaine Delbosq’s astonishing foot juggling with my mouth open, and the Tropicana springboard troupe almost brought the house down (literally – I thought a couple of them were going through the roof).

And as for the Globe of Terror? Let’s just say it’s aptly named.

Unusually, Cirque Berserk actively encourages you to take photos and go on social media to talk about the show – although with so much going on, it’s not that easy to find the time.

A couple of health warnings: because of all the objects being set on fire, and the motorbikes (did I mention there are motorbikes?), it does get quite fumey in the auditorium, even before the show begins. And take heed of the notice on the door about flashing lights, because they really mean it. Oh, and if you’re of a nervous disposition… well, maybe just take a cusion to hide behind!
So… still want to join the circus?

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