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The Wing Scuffle Spectacular at Beckenham Place Park

It’s the day of the World Cup Final, rain is making the hard-packed snow even more of a slip-hazard, the tube is in chaos even though there isn’t a strike on, and yet I cross the metropolis to make my way to a big top in a green space I’ve never been to before, Beckenham Place Park. Never mind that I’m boycotting Qatar’s World Cup, nor that the snow will finally and blessedly thaw overnight – I’m not hoping for a prize for making it across London – but I am in something of a grump when I arrive.

Revel Puck Circus Company (credit - Harry Wilson).
Revel Puck Circus Company (credit – Harry Wilson).

I managed to soak my socks on the way in, but the blissfully heated tent is comfy, with a gentle mist hanging in the air. And then the lights drop into a momentary darkness, and a thumping track blares out.

Circus is another world, and as Revel Puck’s artistic director Luke Hallgarten explained when we caught up with him last year, the whole experience of the tent, the ‘village’ of caravans, the creation of a self-sufficient circus ‘bubble’, makes for an adventure where anything can happen. I can be transported away from my (minor) woes.

The Wing Scuffle Spectacular is an exploration of fear, and it embraces ambitious feats of acrobatics and teamwork, where things really can go wrong. When atop a giant-sized rola bola (basically, a plank of wood balanced across a free-moving wheel) the cast takes several attempts to pull off a trick. The excited little girl sitting beside me has to be told by the crew to stay in her seat; the rest of us can see the danger involved in the huge wooden oblong escaping control.

There’s no safety net to catch the tightrope walker, and yet she confidently strides, dances, and moonwalks her way back and forth in time to the music. Inasmuch as there’s a narrative, it revolves around a nervous clown, tormented and then finding love with a lion. Which is as bonkers as it sounds and twice as cute.

Performed in the round, this is an intimate show, and one where the troupe are as likely to be retrieving one another’s props as spiralling in mid-air clasping aerial straps. It’s a family show where family extends to the cast and crew as much as the audience, and where those who have braved the cold and wet, and foregone the footy, react with gasps, claps and delight. These off-beat folks are giving up their Christmas period to live in a park, in order to dazzle locals and make them laugh. Nobody needs the promise of a medal to head along and let them.

5 Star Rating

Review by Ben Ross

This winter, join The Revel Puck Circus as they find joy on the edge of fear.

This high-skill circus show features acrobatics, the UK’s only teeterboard trio and physical comedy all performed with a heartfelt, hilarious and dangerous edge. The Wing Scuffle Spectacular is a tented circus show for the 21st century. A call to arms to care for each other, challenge each other and take risks together for higher rewards.

Part of LIT! our London Borough of Culture finale celebrations.

More details and tickets

The Wing Scuffle Spectacular
Thursday, 15 December 2022
Sunday, 8 January 2023
Beckenham Place Park
Beckenham Hill Road, BR3 1SYUK
https://beckenhamplacepark.com/

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