Review – Cirkus Cirkor – Sadler’s Wells at the Peacock Theater

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If you’re looking for a condensed and spoiler-free review, here’s the short version; I had a good time at this inventive, skillful show and would consider it an evening well-spent at say £20 a ticket. Your price point may vary from mine. Continuing on:

LastMinute.com is the doom of me. I go there to randomly cruise their £10 theater offerings and wind up finding shows I’ve never heard about and suddenly notice I’ve blown my budget. In this case, I saw a plug for Cirkus Cirkor and the picture looked good (“Hey, circus!”) then the next thing you know I’d convinced three other people to go and I was buying a membership at Sadler’s Wells to get a discount on my tickets and, well, it did all wind up costing me more than the £20 I was originally planning on shelling out for two tickets, but not that much if you exclude the price of Sadler’s Wells’ membership. Ah well, all in support of an organization I really like, really.

That said, we had a lot of fun last night in our stalls row U seats at the Peacock Theater (a little of the top of the stage was blocked by the balcony but no action took place there so no great loss). As per the last two shows I’ve seen there (including Les Sept Doigts de la Main, another circus troupe), the concept is having a show built around a story that lets the performances shine. I liked Cirkus Cirkor’s throughline – a woman plucked from normality is exposed to strange creatures and situations and winds up having to push herself to realize her dreams. Of course, what it really was was a series of circus acts of the human variety – balancing acts, acrobats, jugglers, aerialists – but with an interesting way of transitioning between acts. It also had very different “characters” from what might think of as circus “types” – an all white clown, two straight people, “the world’s strongest woman and her daughter,” a juggler, and a bizarre hairy-legged troll in a tutu (who pranced around en pointe and was generally weird). Rather than just giving up on tradition altogether, I felt this set-up allowed the group to better maintain their theme, while bending tradition, in a way that better framed their story and made it more believable.

But of course one does not go to the circus to see a play, one goes to be entertained and wowed. My “wow” moments were the athletic and gorgeous trapeze duet with the two women, which showed flexibility, agility, strength (from both of them!) and, most importantly to me, inventiveness in the use of a very tired vernacular.

I also oohed and awed and gasped at the juggler, who performed a thrilling routine (with balls and hoops and pins and two helpers throwing him things in addition to doing headstands and stuff) that utterly focused my attention. It helped that it was done to a solo drum accompaniment that really heightened the tension. In fact, I should offer kudos to the band, whose thoughtful songs helped turn many of the pieces from acts into moments. Circus Contraption may have had crazier songs but Irya’s Playground were far more than accompaniment – not just backing but providing an extra show alongside the main attraction. Really, the evening was better than any circus style show I’ve seen since moving to London (even if, per per my former Cirque friend who sat beside me, the balancing act was wholly derivative of Cirque de Soleil’s “Allegria” – I wouldn’t have known or noticed) and I’m glad I went – as was, I’d assume, the loudly cheering audience. What a change from the limp applause of a normal night at the theater! My guess is that this will be a very successful run, especially given how poor seat availability was for the first week. Get your seats now if you’re interested lest you miss out.

(This review is for a performance that took place on Tuesday, October 20th, 2009. Circus Cirkor continues through October 31st, 2009.)

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