Next up is one of those shows that could go anywhere, depending on the quality and pizzazz of its performers. It’s Spiegelworld’s Atomic Saloon Show at the Palais du Varieté, Assembly George Square Gardens, at 22:10 on Monday 19th. This is what the official blurb says: “The wildest watering hole in town. Madam Boozy Skunkton has been collecting the prettiest, sexiest, dumbest, drunkest troupe of entertainers and acrobats on earth, and is determined to create the greatest saloon show the world has ever known. Moulin Rouge meets Blazing Saddles, and America’s Got Talent meets Westworld. From the creators of the hit Las Vegas show Absinthe. Featuring some of the best names in variety and physical comedy, this world premiere is a must-see before it heads to its permanent home on the Las Vegas Strip. Directed by Cal McCrystal (One Man, Two Guvnors).”
The decider that convinced me to book for this one is that it’s directed by Cal McCrystal who always delivers a fun and creative production. Check back after it’s finished shortly before 11.45 pm to see if we enjoyed it. By then the next preview blog should be available to read too.
That’s a winner! Sometimes these innuendo-based circus variety acts can miss the mark, but this one really doesn’t. Sharp, sexy, funny, and with some incredible acrobatic, dance and comedy burlesque acts, this is a sure shootin’ success!
Next is a show that’s had great reviews down under, and I’m sure will be a breath of fresh air. It’s Yummy, at Central @ Assembly Roxy, at 21:40 on Wednesday 22nd. Here’s the blurb: “Yummy, the Melbourne powerhouse of drag, dance, circus, and music, has been serving smash-hit events in numerous festivals across Australia and beyond. Yummy is the winner of Best Production and Best Ensemble (Cabaret) at the 2018 Greenroom Awards and Best Cabaret at Adelaide Fringe Weekly Awards 2018. This critically acclaimed show is directed by James Welsby and features an all-star cast: Karen From Finance, Valerie Hex, Jandruze, Zelia Rose, Hannie Helsden and Benjamin Hancock. Described as ‘a must-see’ ***** (Advertiser, Adelaide, 2018), Yummy is an absurd, fascinating, and outrageous experience.”
By the sound of it, this isn’t going to be full of shy and retiring types – I predict a riot! Check back around 11pm to see how much we enjoyed it. By then the next preview blog should be available to read too.
Yummy is a sensationally colourful and vibrant show, with terrific performers and a huge sense of fun. I particularly enjoyed the girl with the hula hoops! My only criticism is that after a while it becomes just a little samey, I’d have loved a few more comedy numbers or speciality acts. Nevertheless, highly enjoyable!
And now, as they used to say, it’s time for something completely different. It’s Sweatshop at Palais du Variete @ Assembly George Square Gardens at 22:00 on Thursday 24th. Here’s the blurb: “Briefs Factory present a late-night extravaganza, Sweatshop, hosted by the impeccably coiffed master crooner Mikelangelo. Grab yourself a knock-off drink and clock into the Sweatshop. Experience the production line of cabaret, circus and party tricks manufactured in difficult and dangerous working conditions before your eyes, featuring the Briefs Factory workers. This is a sweaty, uncompromising performance, brought to you by the team that brought you Briefs and Hot Brown Honey. Violate your senses. Dance it out.”
I’m expecting “extreme”. Extreme comedy, extreme circus, extreme burlesque. Apart from that, your guess is as good as mine. I’ve seen some of Mikelangelo’s videos on Youtube, and I confess I’m a little worried. Check back around 11.30 pm to see if my concerns were justified. By then the next preview blog should be available to read too.
Some of the audience reviews for this show were negative and said this was tasteless. I can only say, they didn’t get the joke. I thought this was a brilliant array of acts, including the gorgeous Lada Redstar who brought politics into burlesque in a way I had not expected. There was also a hilarious hoop act to the soundtrack of Popcorn – and there’s a good reason for that – the chicken demolishing Gingzilla and the unforgettable Betty Grumble. She’s not called International Sex Clown for nothing, and she displays a lack of inhibition that’s second to none!
It’s not often you go into a show and they tell you to keep your mobile phones on, to photograph and record as much as you like, to tweet and to update Facebook throughout the evening. It wouldn’t happen at the RSC, that’s for sure. But Cirque Berserk is a different kind of theatrical experience – all the fun of the Big Top, but under a Proscenium Arch.
Mrs Chrisparkle has always been a bit sniffy about circuses. When kids like me were dreaming of running away and joining one just like Phineas T Barnum did, she was fantasising about running away and joining an accountancy college. However, over the years, her anti-circus resolve has weakened a little; although I don’t think it’s likely that she would have chosen to come to this show had it not been for the fact that we were taking my brother- and sister-in-law, plus our seven-year-old niece, just jetted in from deepest darkest Australia. The perfect show for a little ‘un, we thought. Mrs C had no choice. However, it wasn’t long before she was cheering and clapping along with the best of them, as the all-pervasive charms of the Cirque Berserk troupe broke down her stony heart and at one stage I thought I was going to have to stop her from joining Tweedy the Clown and challenging him to a baggy-pants-falling-down routine.
Ah yes, Tweedy. I’m one of those relative rare people who find clowns funny. Here in Northampton we famously had the scary clown a few months ago, who’d get photographed at weird moments in unlikely locations, sending half the population into a meltdown of fear. Not me. If I’d met him, I’d have tweaked his red nose and squirted water in his ear. But Tweedy isn’t that kind of clown. I love how modern clowning has re-invented itself with all sorts of physical comedy skills. He had some wonderful routines; the bicycle that falls apart and gets put back together like a Heath Robinson creation; the stepladder that traps him and that he uses as a walking frame; his getting two beefy assistants out of the audience to help him with his unicycle. He’s incredibly inventive and amazingly skilful and he keeps the show going throughout the whole evening.
There are some great acrobatic acts too. The Timbuktu Tumblers (I bet they haven’t been to Timbuktu) engage us from the start with great balancing tricks and I really loved their squeezing themselves under the fiery limbo pole. There are also the Tropicana Troupe from Cuba, who, with an enormous amount of slightly hilarious posing, catapult each other from one end of the stage to the other by jumping on an enormous seesaw – a really thrilling act. We also had the delights of Gabriel and Germaine swinging their Bolas Argentinas – very amusingly when his bolas almost get trapped in Gabriel’s big fluffy hair (you had to be there). Germaine is a complete star when it comes to her feet juggling act too.
You’ve heard of a ship in a bottle? They have a lady in a bottle! It’s a tight squeeze, but Odka manages it, then she emerges to sharp-shoot with her bow and arrow. There are almost too many acts to mention – Zula, with his Tower of Chairs; Laci, Rosey and Jackie balancing, twirling and acrobating in the air, and the amazing Jose and Gaby, who balance on top of each other just using one hand – an incredible feat of strength and trust. And of course, there’s the high adrenaline of the Motorcycle Globe of Death; the Lucius Team one by one enter the globe and zoom around inside this big mesh ball, with absolutely no scope for any mistiming whatsoever. I couldn’t believe it when one of the ladies joined them, just standing there as they raced around her; how on earth she didn’t end up in A&E I’ll never know.
Some circuses are all about the art; some all about the thrills. This circus definitely falls into the latter category. The audience adored it and were either on the edge of their seat with excitement, or falling off it with laughter. It would be impossible not to like this show. Truly fantastic entertainment, I couldn’t recommend it too highly. Their current tour continues to Sheffield and Cardiff – go see it!
You’re either a circus person or you’re not. When I was young, I wanted to run away and join the circus. When Mrs C was young, she wanted to run away and join a group of travelling accountants. Well, neither of those stories are strictly true, but you get the picture of the difference between us. Last year we – I won’t say “enjoyed” – “witnessed” is perhaps more appropriate – the performance of the Chinese State Circus at the Derngate. Mrs C made me promise absolutely “No More Circuses” as a result. Trouble is, me and the Moscow State Circus go back a long way. I saw them when I was 10 at the Wembley Empire Pool (showing my age), and again in my early 20s at the Dominion Tottenham Court Road, and both occasions they had the legendary clown Oleg Popov, who really was amazing, and who I’m delighted to read is still going strong at the age of 81. So I hoped the passing months would eradicate the bad memory of the Chinese affair and I snuck in these tickets to the Moscow State Circus in the hope that She Wouldn’t Notice Until It Was Too Late.
The Moscow State Circus really is, and always has been in my book, a class above your average circus, and I’m delighted to say I feel my decision to book was fully justified in the light of last night’s performance – and not to say a little relieved. It’s not perfect by any means. Similar to the Chinese State Circus, they do for some reason feel compelled to structure the show around a rather artificial story. Babushkin’s Secret is based on the legend of the Twelve Chairs. You’re not familiar with it? You do surprise me. Whilst it does serve as a framework as such, the twist at the end of the story makes for a very disappointing punchline in circus terms. Much better simply to get on with doing what they do best – circus acts.
Our clowning hosts are Valerik (the straight man) and Valik (the red nosed one), in real life, Valery Kashkin and Valentina Rumyantseva. They strike up a good interaction with the audience and Valerik also proves himself very deft on the stepladder and with a spot of juggling. Comparisons with Popov would be odious, but I did laugh at them, and even Mrs C was occasionally wryly amused.
Taking the acts in order of performance, we had Yana Alieva’s wonderful hula hoop act, contorting herself in a revolving ring high above the stage; then one of the real highlights of the evening, the Four Vassilievs, who do a spectacular horizontal bar act. Two of the Vassilievs are basically used as bar stands, but it is Vassiliev #3 who does the leaping and twirling who has an extraordinary skill.
According to the programme, we should then have seen the “Fat Man” doing his Revolutions; but there was no fat man last night. Maybe he was off sick. Maybe he had lost weight, suggested Mrs C. Instead we had a bonus act of a couple of Wild West rodeo lassoers and whip-crackawayers. Not sure how they would have fitted in to Babushkin’s Sekret, but we’ll move on. They were excellent – and I recognised them later on as the Veslovskiys, headed by Gennadiy Veslovskiy, who did a thrilling rollerskating act.
Then it was the turn of Sasha Doktorov and Yulia Tsurikova, incredibly skilful gymnastic acrobats revolving high above the stage, a very controlled and strong couple. Next was the Rubtsovs Skakalki, a skipping act. It’s much better than it sounds, although to be honest, I felt that if you were a skipper of this level of ability, you probably could have made the act a little more interesting. That’s just me – I’m not over-experienced in the noble art of skipping. To come to terms with her excitement at this act Mrs C started searching her pockets for a dry-cleaning ticket to read.
The second half started with a probably my favourite of the night, High Jinks with Professor Bulakov. I thought it was going to be just another clownish pratfall type act, but it develops into an immensely skilful and funny trampolining act. Won’t give the game away, but do be careful if you’re sat in the front row! Vladimir Georgievskiy is the real Professor Bulakov, and I really loved his act.
Whilst Bulakov and Valerik drown away their sorrows over a bottle of vodka, Katiya Drozdova appears as the doll on the Music Box. This is another contortionist acrobatic act, and she’s highly skilful and watchable. Sasha Doktorov comes back to reach the Twelfth Chair – and it’s an awe-inspiring display of balance and strength. Finally the Rubtsovs came back doing their Flying Jesters routine, a lot of exciting tumbling and crowd pleasing acrobatics.
As we were leaving the theatre, Professor Bulakov was having his picture taken with loads of kids. I was officially jealous. The good news is that, on the strength of this performance, Mrs C said we can see another circus in 2014. If you like your circuses, this one’s a treat.