The UK’s newest circus, Cirque Berserk, is filled to the brim with potential but has fallen victim to many avoidable shortcomings. Despite attracting large crowds in London, Edinburgh’s rather spacious Playhouse Theatre was hardly filled to capacity.
The first of the show’s many acts comprised eight or so men, all dressed in raggedy clothes, jumping and leaning on one another to form shapes with their bodies—the sort of thing one might expect to see on the street in Covent Garden but certainly not on the stage of a reputable show. While these men are, without a doubt, talented, they do not serve as a terribly impressive opening act.
Essentially, Cirque Berserk’s set is that of an exposed interior or guts of a circus—everything appears to be mismatched but proves to have a purpose by the show’s end. Performers include two acrobats who seem dull in comparison to many of theatre’s other acrobatic acts, such as those in Cirque du Soleil shows. The acts that follow continue to disappoint and do not deliver on the show’s promise to entertain its audience with truly ‘berserk’ happenings. It is not until Tropicana Troupe, a group of Cuban acrobats, comes onto the stage that the Cirque Berserk’s fate seems to turn around. The group uses what appears to be a flimsy ladder and a see-saw to launch each other as high as seven metres in the air. Act I closes with an equally astonishing performance, in which one man comes onto the stage riding a motorbike and subsequently enters a ball. By curtain’s close, he is joined by another biker, and the two circulate around each other inside the ball, as the crowd sits on the edge of their seats to see what will happen.
The high-paced Act II, which features loud music playing throughout, proves to be far superior to the former, particularly because of its theme of fire. Most memorable of the second-half performances are the knife-thrower, who also utilises fire in his act, and Mongolian contortionist Odka, who is so flexible that she can shoot an arrow with her foot and still hit a bullseye. Cirque Berserk’s last act once again features the metal hamster ball and motorbikes. As promised, “the world’s most dangerous circus act” appear as first two, then three, and eventually four of them go whizzing around on their bikes. At one point, the men are joined by a woman, who stands cautiously in the cage as the bikes go by, leaving the audience not only in absolute awe but also with the bitter smells of petrol and fumes.
Cirque Berserk is a show of 35 talented performers, all of whose full potential goes untapped for lack of tighter direction. Additionally, an indoor theatre may not be the best venue for the show, because of the many fumes. Nonetheless, Cirque Berserk is incredibly entertaining and is certainly worth the cheap ticket should it return to Edinburgh.