Cirque Berserk returns to The Festival Theatre Edinburgh for five days (Tue 20 to Sat 24 February) for what has become an annual performance, and as usual bringing with it traditional circus skills mixed with the new and blending them into a theatre performance of at times jaw dropping skill and danger.
I think that sometimes, as an audience, we have become a bit blasé to live circus performances like Cirque Berserk and expect almost as mandatory almost super-human skills whilst ignoring for some reason the real personal danger that goes into many of these performances.
Top of that danger list tonight for many had to be the incredible “The Lucius Team” with at one point an incredible four riders on motorcycles inside the very small Globe of Death, and when the theatre house lights are brought down so that you only see the illuminated lights of the motorcycles as they speed all over the inside of this globe, the audience really gets to see just how fast and dangerous this performance is.
Cirque Berserk is home to a wide variety of circus skills and I don’t want to give them all away to anyone yet to see the show, but they include acts such as “Timbuktu Tumblers“, “Bolas Argentinas“ as well as master performers of foot tumbling, strap acrobats, aerial pole artists, knife throwers, contortionists and more….and of course one of my favourites “Tweedy” whose slapstick routines are perfectly timed to make everything that he does look so easy. Normally I don’t like clowns or slapstick routines, but there is something charming and almost continental in style in the impeccable comedy timing of Tweedy that I just love for some unknown reason. I think it is maybe a warmth and connection with an audience that is rare in any performer.
I have seen Cirque Berserk each year now since 2015 and their astonishing level of human skills never ceases to amaze me, but given the enormous competition from other highly skilled touring circus companies, is this enough to build up an audience of loyal fans and keep them coming back year after year? Well obviously in my case yes, but unless Cirque Berserk start to do a few new things in the coming years I think they could be struggling a little in a highly competitive marketplace as this show is the same performances from everyone that I have seen now every year with the exception of a few new acts. Amazing as many of these performances are, I think a returning audience is eventually going to be looking for something different from Cirque Berserk.
Circus skills are obviously the heart and strength of Cirque Berserk, but audiences are starting to look for incredible skill performances almost as obligatory now and also expecting a stage spectacular, and it is in the linking together pieces that Cirque Berserk really needs to work and for me, bring in some far more polished choreography in the production and maybe extend the running time of the show a little because at 40 minutes per show half plus an interval, Cirque Berserk is a fairly short trip out to the theatre. I know that this is a lot of performance time for a circus and the performers, but the show is being performed in a theatre to a theatre audience who are maybe used to longer shows for their money.
Despite some of the negatives in this review, if you have not seen Cirque Berserk then take the chance to see performances of high skill levels and often very high personal danger levels to the performers. If you have seen the show already, then you pretty much know what you are going to see, but try and make the return visit as although for me the show needs to evolve and develop a bit more as the years go by, it is a reminder to us all that somewhere out there are people who devote their lives to making the very hard look very easy and making the rest of us look very mundane.
With the skill levels of the performers on stage it is for me impossible to give this show anything less than four stars, and with a little work on the theatrical elements of the overall production and even slight development in some acts this show could easily be five stars for me.
Review by Tom King