“Not a circus, it’s a Berserkus!” Cirque Berserk! boldly comes with two USPs. Firstly, in the name of “maximum thrills”, all-but-one of the acts perform without safety devices; and, yes, these days this may well raise some ethical concerns around people risking life and limb in the name of entertainment. Secondly, the show has forsaken the traditional circus Big Top to tour the nation’s theatres.
Cirque Berserk! is an excellent showcase for some truly talented performers
This presumably offers some advantages, not least reaching audiences less willing to visit the muddy fields where traditional circuses have to set up home. Yet framing circus acts within a traditional prosceniumarch does has consequences, given that standard theatrical lighting rigs are generally designed to point down onto the stage. On the night of this review, the undoubted skills of strap acrobat Jackie would have likely inspired a more immediate and stronger audience reaction if smoke and poor illumination hadn’t left her almost invisible. Indeed, the lack of a roving spotlight left most of the show’s high-fliers in the gloom: a rare misstep in a production with an otherwise seemingly unstoppable momentum.
There are no grand interruptions from one act to the next, or breaks in the pulsing music track, but within that context Cirque Berserk! nevertheless provides a wide variety of acts and tones: from the exuberant Timbuktu Tumblers to the characterful showmanship of Gabriel and Germaine (with their percussive use of Argentinian bolas); or from the contemporary vaudeville-styled clowning of Scotland’s own Tweedy to the balletic gymnastics of Columbia’s own Jose and Gaby. Oh, and it’s impossible to forget the testosterone-filled gymnastics by the Tropicana Troupe—seeing them, you’ll believe a man can have an eight-pack!
While Cirque Berserk! is an excellent showcase for some truly talented performers—footjuggler Germaine Delbosq, for example—the show’s relentless pace nevertheless robs some acts of any impact: Zula, the “Mongolian master of the Tower of chairs”, for example, comes and goes in the blink of an eye. More stage time is devoted to a giant, sparks-shooting robot which crosses the stage for no obvious purpose beyond the initial “wow” factor of its appearance—or perhaps wonder at how Cirque Berserk! haven’t yet been sued by the makers of Transformers.
Quite understandably, the climax of both halves of the show is the Motorcycle Globe of Death, a large metal sphere inside which up to four members of the Lucius Team reach speeds of up to 60mph. You’re unlikely to ever see anything else like this ever on a British stage; which, given the long-lingering aroma of motorbike exhaust, is perhaps just as well. Traditional British theatres are not, it would appear, quite as well ventilated as a Big Top!