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Cirque Berserk! at The Garrick Theatre | Review

A brief off-stage announcement tells the audience that, “This is an interactive performance. Please do not switch off your phones. Instead: text, tweet, Instagram and Facebook all you like. Photography without flash and video filming for private use is encouraged.” Aside from the said announcement, the show contains no dialogue whatsoever: one could, in theory, speak to fellow theatregoers at full conversational volume without missing any of the action. In practice, however, the background music is sufficiently loud to drown out pretty much all off-stage noise, and in any event, the stage is kept busy throughout, such that it is easy to maintain some degree of interest, even if some acts were evidently more appreciated than others.

Cirque Berserk aerielist - Photographer Piet-Hein Out - www.circusphotographer.com
Cirque Berserk aerielist – Photographer Piet-Hein Out – www.circusphotographer.com

Without a compere or master of ceremonies, one act simply follows another, often with a subtle change of lights and music. Occasionally a scene change (if I can call it that) is big enough to require a distraction, which came courtesy of one of the acts not involved in the following scene, which was pleasant enough, apart from one bizarre moment where a giant robot slowly ambled its way from stage left to the centre, let off some sparks, and slowly made its way stage right and out of sight, never to be seen or heard from, or referred to, ever again. And I’m not entirely sure what was intended by having a man sporting the head of a horse who didn’t seem to do much else while in costume.

Even that was more imaginative than a clown. Mercifully, there weren’t any of those at this circus (and if this wasn’t a circus, why did they have the word ‘CIRCUS’ in lights on stage for most of the evening?): the closest thing to that was probably Áron Zsálek, a juggler from Hungary, who did that thing where a circus act starts off with a relatively simple act, before progressing to more complicated sequences that elicit increasing numbers of gasps and applause.

Perhaps predictably, the show keeps the more sensational stuff for the second half. I’m pretty sure I saw four riders on motorbikes in a large metal sphere spinning around at once, at (of all places) Goldilocks and the Three Bears at the London Palladium. But I didn’t bother mentioning that to another reviewer from a different publication in the row in front of mine, whose face was in his hands at the sight of two of them in the first half, and then three in the second. Let’s just say it’s the sort of show that has that kind of effect on people. Take Toni, who hurls knives and axes at his wife Nikol at high speed with remarkable accuracy.

The team are, collectively, ‘Berserkers’, and hailing from African nations, Cuba, Mongolia, Brazil and the Czech Republic, among other places, as well as the UK and Ireland, the show is a prime example of representation done well, or at least better than most. Elberel, a contortionist, shoots a bow and arrow at an odd angle with – wait for it – her feet, while Paulo Dos Santos, at 3ft 6ins, is inevitably paired with the tallest man in the company.

The show’s programme is somewhat boastful about having no safety devices. Define ‘safety devices’, is my only reply – there’s a ‘teeterboard’, which looks like a see-saw, from which people are catapulted from: I’d count the manned landing mat as a safety device, as I would the clips and straps elsewhere in proceedings. But perhaps I doth protest too much: at the end of the day (or rather, evening), it’s enthralling and entertaining. There may not be anything profound about it, but that’s neither here nor there when the show does what it says on the tin – it’s the circus, but at the theatre.

4 stars

Review by Chris Omaweng

The hair-raising and hilarious Cirque Berserk! celebrates its return to the stage, following the cancellation of its performances since March last year due to lockdown restrictions. Combining contemporary cirque-style artistry with adrenaline-fuelled stunt action, the 2021 show features audiences’ favourite Berserk! acts from around the world plus some thrilling new ones.

A unique collaboration between classical circus artists, some from tenth generation circus families, and a theatrical creative team, Cirque Berserk! is the UK’s biggest and most diverse full-scale circus production created especially for proscenium-arch theatres.

CREATIVE TEAM:
Martin ‘Zippo’ Burton – Founder and Producer
Beau Denning – Production Director
Julius Green – Creative Director
Dede McGarrity – Movement Director
Sean Cavanagh – Set Design
Dianne Kelly – Costume Design
Mike Robertson – Lighting Design
Matthew Bugg – Sound Design

Cirque Berserk!
The Garrick Theatre
2 Charing Cross Road,
London, WC2H 0HH
Wednesday 25 August – Saturday 11 September 2021

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1 thought on “Cirque Berserk! at The Garrick Theatre | Review”

  1. Absolutely shocking
    Do not waste your money
    The acts are not even circus level, jugglers dropping not once or twice but five times. A knife throwing not hitting the block and an act not landing on the crash mat

    It is defiantly not hair raising

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