Circus of the Orient
  • By Tom King
  • |
  • 11th Aug 2011
  • |
  • ★★★★

I haven’t been to the circus for a while and there’s a reason for that. The gaudiness and tinsel doesn’t really appeal and the merchandising always seems a bit too cynical.Which is why I wasn’t expecting too much from Circus of the Orient, especially after someone tried to force a stick of candyfloss on me on the way in. But I had a bit of a change of heart.For this I have to thank the kids on my table, because, from the moment the first act came on stage, it became clear that this show isn’t for grumpy people like me – it’s for the kids. And they loved it. From the boy who shouted ‘This is gonna be awesome!’ before EVERY act to the girl whose favourite bit was ‘the people who did the jumping’, everyone under 14 years old and four feet tall was constantly excited.And with good reason; these performers really are very skilled. Despite lacklustre links from the wooden ring-mistress, every act holds it own. Some, like clowns Duo Del Mars, hold very few surprises but provide a solid structure for the show and a nice change from the more physical performances.Obviously though, the acrobats are still the main reason to see this show. As you might expect from the title and poster, the Shaolin Warriors are the most heavily promoted and very impressive they are; performing incredible feats of physical endurance punctuated by dazzling weaponry displays. One highlight, involving a needle and a pane of bulletproof glass, is particularly amazing and genuinely left me puzzled as to trick behind it (or whether it was a trick at all).However, despite the monks’ celebrity status, for me the real stars of the show are the amazing, acrobatic Troupe Julio. From the established performers to the primary-school-age mini-tumbler, every member takes part in their breath-taking stunts of agility; diving, rolling and flipping through the air, always seeming just inches from disaster. And balanced out by less frenetic acts, like rope artists The Serif Brothers or the aerialist Mona Lisa, the pace of the show shifts but, barring one over-long clowning section, never drops.This show is a bit of a hidden gem, and if you look through the tacky greasepaint on the surface there are some incredible acts hiding within. With a different image, subtler music and less gaudy costumes, these performers could easily be the centre of a £20 per ticket Le Cirque-style show at a much more upscale venue. So while the candy floss and programmes may set you back a few extra quid, it’s a pretty good deal for what you get in return. Fringe theatre it ain’t. Fantastic family fun? Flip yeah.

Reviews by Tom King

Summerhall

A Fortunate Man

★★★
Underbelly, Cowgate

The Cat's Mother

★★★
The Stand Comedy Club 3 & 4

Phill Jupitus: Sassy Knack

★★★★
Traverse Theatre

Nigel Slater’s Toast

★★★
CanadaHub @ King's Hall in association with Summerhall

Famous Puppet Death Scenes

★★★★
Assembly George Square Gardens

Jess Robinson: No Filter

★★★★

The Blurb

East meets West in a spectacular fusion of world class circus! Incredible Shaolin warriors combine with international circus stars, in an action and laughter packed spectacle for the whole family.