There was a time when circuses relied on animals, some of which may not have always been treated particularly well, to perform most of the tricks. It’s unlikely that anyone ever lobbed half a dozen razor sharp knives at an elephant or forced a lion to limbo under a flaming bar though, yet these are just a couple of the glorious Health and Safety defying acts that form part of the frantic/fantastic Cirque Berserk show.
Bringing together some of the best touring circus acts from around the world Cirque Berserk’s the brainchild of Martin ‘Zippo’ Burton (owner of Zippos Circus) and together with Director Julius Green he’s done a fine job of balancing the “Oooohs” and “Ahhhhs” with the “Ha has”.
The highlights of the former include Tropicana Troupe who do their bit for the Cuban space programme by attempting to send one of their number into orbit using nothing more than a springboard. Then there’s the grace and beauty of France’s Duo Benelo who turn the traditional handstand on its head. Literally.
Ever tried firing a bow and arrow at a target? Trust me, it’s not easy, as my former archery instructor One Eyed Jeff will tell you. Using your feet instead of your hands and doing a handstand at the same time should be frankly impossible and yet a particularly flexible young lady (a contortionist from Mongolia called Odka apparently) makes it all look effortless. In fact this evening she scored a pretty much perfect bullseye. I bet she’d be a big hit with a ladies pub darts team. The fact that she can squeeze herself into a bottle at the end of the night’s a bonus.
A few moments later Czech knife thrower Toni narrowly avoids dissecting his good lady wife as she spins round on a wooden board trying not to (a) throw up or (b) look as though her entire life is flashing past her eyes. Not content with normal knives ol’ Toni sets fire to a few of them as well, if you’re going to impale your other half you might as well incinerate the evidence eh? The highlight of the act sees Mrs Toni flick her head violently from side to side as he lobs knives directly at the space occupied mere milliseconds ago by her face. Insane.
Flying the flag for the UK strap acrobat (or maybe that should be strapcrobat) Jackie performs a head spinning routine that would surely decapitate most mere mortals. I’ve heard of people having ‘brass neck’ before but this is ridiculous.
Of course every good circus needs a clown and Cirque Berserk has the charmingly innocent Tweedy, a master of slapstick and timing who provides some much needed comic relief throughout the show. He might not be risking life and limb up there but as a wise man once said, “Dying is easy, comedy is hard”...although on reflection I’d probably rather have a joke fall flat than plunge 30 feet onto a hard wooden stage.
The climax of the whole night sees four blokes (Lucius Team) squeeze themselves and their motorbikes into a small metal globe and whizz around at breakneck speed...an entirely appropriate phrase given that they’d probably break this and every other bone in their body if they happened to collide.
There are more acts on offer but this is a show that you really need to experience for yourselves. In a world where everything’s been done to eliminate danger from our lives it’s strangely intoxicating to be just a few feet away from people risking, at the very least, serious injury for your entertainment. You’d be berserk to miss it.
Cirque Berserk is on at The REP until Sunday March 22nd. Tickets here!