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Skill, thrills and chills abound in Limbo. There’s also frivolity and frights as its agile, versatile cast astound, mess around, dance up a storm and at times, almost literally, bring the house down.
The same talented Australian troupe that brought Cantina to the Southbank’s Spiegeltent at London Wonderground last year, now offers Limbo with its spangle studded peaks and pauses, full throttle focus and frothy, but cheeky charm. As you take your seat in a circular space awash in purple, pendulous lights dangling above the stage at its centre, you feel something special is about to happen. And Limbo is definitely a happening, and, most probably, one of the most exciting places to be in London this summer. For all its surreal-ness, circus is for real. What you see is taking place in real time and space right before your eyes. There’s no faking it. Which is why Limbo, with its feats of skill and daring draws such reactions from a legendarily tough London audience, who obligingly oooh and aaah along with the action. In that way, a truly, functional circus is also a warming, edge rounding catharsis.
Heather Holliday is to fire as cats are to cream, fairly purring with every ignited intake, exhaling flames after as though it were a natural thing to do, licking her lips in feline-like contentment. Ms. Holliday’s was one of the most theatrical acts, heightening the sense of drama vital to any effective circus. The house fairly crackled when she performed. Grace and agility went hand in hand throughout Jonathan Nosan’s inventive vignettes, emphasising the dedication and hard work that goes into such seemingly effortless performances. A quirky nonchalance gave him an off-beat angle ‘60’s artist R. Crumb would appreciate. Gone are dumbbell lifting strongmen of yore. Here, Danik Abishev hand stands his way along a series of flat topped posts, supporting his muscular frame with one hand, without wavering! Supple is super, blended with grace, sublime. Hilton Denis is one mean dancer, giving the impression of a whole troupe rather than a lone hoofer. Though there’s nothing off the hoof about the way he moves, grooving in, but never out of rhythmic time. Like everyone in this variously talented cast, Denis flies, flips and gracefully flings himself about as required. When it comes to full on, yet easy pole dancing, Mikael Bres trumps nearly everyone I’ve ever seen, manning the bar with a lightness in contrast to his sturdy frame as he shows remarkable control, agilely scaling, then quickly slipping down, stopping slowly just before he hits the ground. Last but not least is circus queen Evelyne Allard whose aerial manoeuvres with chains, which must surely, be challenging to work with, make her seem as light as a butterfly deftly freeing itself from a spider’s web. Funky dancing from Ms. Allard and all the cast entertain at intervals between more intense acts, drawing appreciative cheers and applause.
Music maestro Sxip Shirey’s score, especially created for Limbo lends an air that’s eerily upbeat, though bursting with infectious hip hop and dub step riffs with the odd hint of depression era road blues chucked in and a bass undercurrent topping it up. European, old time circus notes are occasionally struck by hurdy-gurdy accordion, with Grant Arthur keeping pace with it all on towering tuba, though musical styles are so rapidly pitched in the context of Shirey’s shifting score, they’re almost like audio flash cards. Mick Stuart kicks out the jams on guitar like there’s no tomorrow, which there isn’t any sense of in Limbo, which seemingly, hovers somewhere between way by when, now and the far flung future. Director Scott Maidment has ably blended all of these elements into a stirring cocktail of carnival barking, small time circus with a big attitude and even bigger heart and playful soul.
As The Beatles famously sang in their kaleidoscopic, Sgt. Pepper days, ‘Fun is the one thing that money can’t buy.’ Do something priceless this summer and shake off the doldrums in Limbo.