Pleasance at the EICC (Venue 150)

August 8th-20th, 22nd-25th 13.30/18.30


From the moment you enter the theatre, you are faced with an impressive set, complete with a giant spherical cage, atmospherically lit, and surrounded by an exciting buzz from an audience of all ages. Something spectacular is promised, and the expectant faces are ready. Suddenly, the show starts, and an array of circus acts and performers flit on and off stage, showcasing their skills and demanding the applause from one of the bigger venues across the Festival.

Within the first 5 minutes, I soon realised that this was a bit of a problem – turning circus into theatre, meant losing the ‘in the round’ aspect that a Big Top traditional circus would have. So, seated at the back of the theatre, I had to depend on two large television screens framing the stage to get a good view and a centre camera with an overactive zoom button!

That is, when I could actually see what was happening – the dramatic lighting throughout the show punctuated the points of applause perfectly. It didn’t, however, actually allow us to see the action, and especially during the aerial sequences, the poor performer didn’t receive the applause deserved, as we simply couldn’t see how impressive the act was.

My final bugbear was the attempt to cram in as much content into the hour long show as possible. With many sequences only having two or three main tricks, we missed out on being wowed and amazed. Instead, we politely applauded stunts and tricks that could have been taken to exciting and tense levels. As a result, the show flew past at a ‘Berserk’ speed, and the moments of dance and floor sequences looked under-rehearsed, with hoops spinning in different directions, or tambourine claps mistimed.

There were, however, moments which pulled the show back, which genuinely moved me. The beautiful sequence between a somewhat villainous strongman and an acrobat unable to use his legs was incredibly emotional and visually stunning. Knowing the difficulty of many of those holds and lifts, and the micro-adjustments needed to sustain them, I was hugely impressed.

I was also genuinely terrified during our grand finale, the spinning motorcycle Globe of Death! I won’t spoil it, but those cyclists must have bigger proverbial balls than the cage itself!! It was exactly the death-defying stunts I expected from a circus show with ‘Berserk’ in the title!

A few tweaks here and there, a little editing, and I believe ‘Cirque Berserk’ could be on to a winner. Add in a through-story, or central character, aspects of storytelling – and some front lighting!!! – and it could even be a highlight of the Fringe Festival. Children will love it regardless: it has enough thrills and drama to keep even the most fidgety of kids still. But for those of us that need a little more impressing, there some beautiful and tense moments peppered throughout.

A great ‘teaser showcase’ to a much-needed meatier show.

Chris O’Mara

Twitter @aramoc