Circus Review


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Roundhouse Circusfest presents

Photo by Miky Calero



Roundhouse Circus Company
Crescer E Viver



6 May – 9 May 2010











A review by Angus Templeton for EXTRA! EXTRA!


There are two types of circuses. First off, there’s your traditional European sideshowy lions and tigers and bears affair, which has clowns, glitz, glamour, greasepaint and popcorn. These are the things that everyone went to see when they were ten or eleven, and were really just interested in all round entertainment.

Then, of course, there are your modern circus acts, which have more in common with a dance troupe than your previous sideshow. Gone are the clowns and elephants, and in come tightrope walkers and acrobats, high wire and adagio galore.
Personally, I blame Cirque du Soliel.

The Circusfest at the Roundhouse is made up of three of the second type of circus troupes, one hailing from England, one from Brazil, and the last from Columbia. They were introduced by a somewhat superfluous MC – when you only have two acts (the Brazilian troupe performed during the intermission in the foyer) there’s little point in having someone announce them both.

The Roundhouse Circus Company – Narcissus
Like all circus productions, if you’re not already aware of the plot then you won’t be able to pick it up from the performances. So spoilers ahoy, Narcissus is about a young man who falls in love with his reflection. That’s the entire plot.

Of course circus shows aren’t necessarily about telling a story. They’re about using a story as inspiration and a starting point to creating some absolutely fantastic physical theatre, which is what The Roundhouse Circus Company has achieved. They’re a relatively young group, having been together as a team for only eight months, and this was the first time they have performed together on stage. While the make- up and costumes were fabulous (and very tribal, which circus folk seem to have a fetish for), and the skills very good, they haven’t yet achieved the practice of making everything they do look easy. You could tell when they were really making an effort on some of their tricks because the strain showed, only a little, in their movements.

Honestly, this worked for them quite well. When a circus troupe pulls off a truly amazing trick with flair and originality, it’s very hard for the audience to know when to clap and how hard it actually was. I’ve had some experience with circus people before, and I can tell you that the easier they make something look, in general, the harder it is to perform. So there were times during the show where I felt I was the only person who was actually impressed at some of the moves on stage, while everyone else thought it was just another jump leading up to something bigger.

They took a little while to get into the serious circussy stuff, focusing at the beginning mostly on dance and story, which led to a great build up towards the end. If they had started with the acrobatics and pole climbing right from the beginning, we wouldn’t have appreciated the denouement so much.
Crescer E Viver
Here’s a hint. During intermission, while the stage is being struck for the first act and set up for the second, head into the foyer and check out this Brazilian troupe. I only found out about them five minutes or so before the end of their act, so I didn’t manage to catch most of their performance (due to my increasingly reliant relationship with alcohol). For those five minutes though I had an absolutely awesome time – they had juggling, acrobatics, adagio and some suspension stuff as well – a lot of which we saw on the main stage, but this time right next to the audience. Make sure you get there at the beginning of the interval so you can get a good view of them as well.
These guys weren’t injecting a story or meaning into their performance, they were just having an amazingly good time, and they never stood still when they could dance. Of special interest was the guy who was built like a weight lifter… it was a pleasure to watch him for the sheer joy and verve displayed in his movement.
Circolombia – Urban
Urban was the main act of the evening. Circolombia has a lot more variety than either of the other two acts of the evening. On stage we saw trios of acrobats, hand balances, trampolining (which put the acrobats in danger of hitting the overhead lights), as well as tightrope, straps and skipping ropes.

They’re style was a mash up of hip hop and traditional South American dance, which means we had fedoras, bandanas, and full white face paint. But the mix really worked well, and everyone’s unique look blended together with the others to create an overall impression of two rival groups of hip-hop acrobats. Though I was somewhat confused when, randomly, a young lady removed her hoodie to reveal a sparkly blue leotard. It didn’t fit, but the acrobalance performance she did was amazing.

Circolombia made everything they were doing look easy, except for the once or twice towards the beginning when they muffed a trick. The acrobats loved to pose and dance between tricks, giving the impression that they thought they were the best thing since sliced bread. And I tended to agree with them. They’re pseudo arrogance was offset by their style and joy. I never saw one of them walk or run somewhere if he couldn’t do a flip.

The show was a little messy towards the end, with so many different things happening on stage that you weren’t sure where to look, or where the focus was supposed to be. This could have been attributed to a lack of direction, but I think the opposite is true. The acts were designed to run together so we had a celebration of everything which had happened before occurring all at once. It didn’t matter that we were seeing the same jumps and throws that we had at the beginning of the act, because it was now thrown in all together with the trampoline, music, and dancing that was built up throughout.

The part which I most liked, however, was the young lady who had been balanced on a ring suspended above the stage for five minutes or so, doing tricks, and then came back down to earth straight into a pair of high heels. The balance and poise that she used to walk around in those heels was the self same balance and poise she used fifteen feet in the air. I have a new appreciation for women walking around in high heels now, which I believe was eminently the point of the act. (This aroused not a few catcalls and wolf whistles from the audience.)

I missed the smell of popcorn and clowns that you’d find at a more traditional circus, but it’s not fair to compare the two. What I saw tonight was amazing, a celebration of the human body and what it’s capable of, told in a style which you don’t normally see in the streets of London.



Box office:  0844 482 8008

Chalk Farm Road, London NW1 8EH





Box office:  020 7328 1000

Tricycle Theatre
269 Kilburn High Road, London, NW6 7JF

Saturday 8pm, Matinee 2.00pm





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