All New ExtremeShow. Wigley Reserve, Glenelg. 3 Jun 2018
Progress and animal rights have tried to close circuses. Rightly so in the case of wild animals.
And yet, despite the perils of tents and the exigencies of life on the road, the circus has found a way to stay alive in the cultural landscape. And so, after last year’s headline traumas of going into liquidation on the road, we find the Great Moscow Circus has reinvented itself and is now rather elegantly encamped on Wrigley Reserve at Glenelg.
The big top is a wonderful, fanciful structure but, inside, it is not as massive as the circuses of yore. The ring is much reduced in dimensions. You’d be pushing it to get an elephant in there, let alone a grand parade.
However, what Mark Edgley et al have done to create a modern incarnation of circus is to change the style, to update it while keeping the traditional circus character intact. It works.
There immediately is that sensation of being among “circus folk”, of an extended family doing everything from performance to roustabout. There are grannies and kids on the job. Everyone is welcoming and friendly. There’s popcorn and fairy floss and slushies to buy and vivid rainbow light wands. Guess what? The prices are not extortionate. Kids can ride the teacups for just $4 at interval and the every-player-wins-a-prize laughing clowns reward with decent little goodies.
Within the performance there is an artful something-for-everyone. "Ladies and Gentlemen, girls and boys”, calls the ringmaster, who is no longer in the ring but in a sound booth where he can conduct a panoply of music, effects and announcements.
In ringmaster garb, however, is a young pop singer who adds a new facet to circus performances, a touch of the Cirque de Soleil, with a spread of talent. She’s delightful.
The usual fare of fear and glamour is there for two solid hours of tightly-timed entertainment: motorbike tricks, high wires, rope artistes, an elegant gymnast, and more. Then there’s a big swing from which performers fling themselves through the air to land in a long, slippery sheet. Spectacular. There’s a fabulous hoop spinner. Then there’s the South American aerialist who walks the great spinning barrel. This is a perilous act. One hold’s one’s breath as he makes it more and more dangerous, all the time so brave and beamingly handsome and suave that there’s not a woman in the tent not falling in love with him.
No wild animals perform in circuses anymore; domesticated animals, yes. To that end, Moscow Circus has a team of tiny, tiny horses which trot around this way and that and look adorable. They are constantly rewarded with treats and look happy in their work under the instruction of a trainer with a funny flaccid whip. There also is a pony who, for lots of treats, does do tricks in a Pony-Saloon routine. It lies down on a bed and covers itself with a blanket.
The trampoline acrobats are a highlight of this circus. The trampoline is beside big wall with open doorways. The acrobats are dressed up like graffiti artists. The music is hip hop. They bounce and somersault higher and higher, in and out of the doors, up and down, faster and faster, clever, funny, inventive and utterly expert.
Ongoing acts are programmed seamlessly. The show moves swiftly, never dull.
The motorcycle Cage of Death is the climactic event. It is loud and fast, daredevil dangerous and as good as it gets.
And, the piece of final genius in this busy, classy circus is the clown who breaks with big-foot white-paint scary-clown tradition and is a swarthy Brazilian with a huge orange mohawk. He is called Walison Muh. He wears a head mike and functions with comic gibberish speak and myriad sound effects. He summons out audience members for lots of good-natured interactive shtick. It is very clever, very different and very funny.
At the end of the show, ears still ringing from spinning motorbike mayhem, the crowds emerge smiling and satisfied.
They had their money’s worth. No doubt.
Performing at: Glenelg, Port Adelaide, Elizabeth, Port Lincoln
Schedule and bookings: thegreatmoscowcircus.com.au