I have a soft spot for classic, big top style circus even if it is being presented in a conference centre by a company that are famed for bringing this genre to West End stages. I love the old-school thrills of the death-defying stunts interspersed with the antics of the clowns and the glamour of show people doing what they do best. Most circus you’ll see at the Fringe leans into the more contemporary or cabaret corners of the genre so it’s great to see a show that’s unabashedly about spectacle. Cirque Berserk sets out to do exactly what it says on the poster – “Real Circus Made For Theatre” and it succeeds, mostly.
Cirque Berserk packs a lot of acts into sixty minutes
The show is a frantic affair; Cirque Berserk packs a lot of acts into sixty minutes, and with over 30 performers in the cast, that’s a lot of folk who need their chance to shine. Highlights include the opening act by the Timbuktu Tumblers, an African acrobatics troupe who display some real skills with skipping ropes before literally throwing themselves into a tumbling and balancing routine that has the audience applauding constantly. Brian Sifon amazes with incredible foot juggling skills as he tosses and spins an insane array of items with his feet. There’s also some excellent clowning that includes three foot six inches tall Paulo Do Santos who proves why he’s earned the moniker “The Smallest Showman”. Dos Santos also shines in a straps routine that shows he has the aerial skills to match his abilities in slapstick. There’s a fantastic silks routine from Berserk Aerial Ballet but the real highlight is, of course, The Lucius team who perform the motorcycle Globe of Death. Seeing five motorcycles seemingly defy gravity inside a steel sphere is a unique experience.
The highs are very high, and there are no real lows to speak of but, with such a large troupe, there’s bound to be a few moments that don’t hit as hard. Unfortunately, an aerial routine sees the performers spend a little too much time with their backs to the audience whilst prepping their next feat and the small child next to me seemed quite disappointed when their mother pointed out that the chap hanging from the rig appeared to have hooks in his boots. A knife throwing act comes and goes so quickly that there’s not much chance to acknowledge the danger of the piece and there’s a strange moment when a giant robot takes to the stage, sprays some sparks, and departs as quickly as it arrived. I find myself wondering if I’m watching a condensed version of a much longer show.
Cirque Berserk is guaranteed circus spectacle. Thrills, danger, glamour, and grace are all on display in this hour of old school circus.