Review: Cirque Berserk! (Floral Pavilion)

Apparently 2018 marks 250 years since the invention of Circus. To my knowledge this anniversary has gone largely unnoticed, but if you feel like celebrating it you couldn’t do better than going to see this slightly weird but hugely entertaining and undeniably compelling show.

Berserk is certainly the word as a non-stop procession comprising all manner of circus performers take their turn on the stage. As you’d expect these days there aren’t any animals, but there’s just about everything else you’d hope to see in a traditional circus, from portly Czechoslovakian Toni hurling knives at his brave female assistant – as she grimly holds on for dear life to a spinning board – to the Timbuktu Tumblers with their dazzling acrobatic leaps and somersaults, and the Brazilian Moustache Brothers, whose innocent slapstick fun keeps us all in high spirits as we wait to see who’s next.

There’s strongmen, a giant robot and Gabriel and Germaine, an Argentinian couple whose fire dance is breathtaking. Some of the acts are impressively original. Odka, a dexterous Mongolian lady, comes on squashed inside a glass jar then proceeds to fire a bow and arrow with her feet, hitting a bullseye with considerable aplomb. It’s remarkable to be seeing all this inside a conventional theatre. There’s no scenery but an abundance of smoke, lights and all round atmosphere. The smell of sawdust may be missing but the other ingredients of a classic circus are all here in spades.

The climax is the Globe of Death, billed as ‘the world’s most hair-raising circus act’. Four motorbike riders defy gravity and dice with danger as they hurtle around inside a metal globe, zigzagging across each other’s paths at frightening speed. It’s one of the show’s few nods to modernity: you could imagine seeing most of the other acts 250 years ago, at a Romanian gipsy camp perhaps, or some other equally romantic middle European location. Congratulations to all concerned – Cirque Berserk! is heartwarming family entertainment and will live long in the memory.

Cirque Berserk! Continues at the Floral Pavilion, New Brighton, with performances on Friday 1 June 2018 (5pm and 7.30pm) and Saturday 2 June (2pm, 5pm and 7.30pm).