Linking together circus acts by way of a narrative is not a new idea but The Moscow State Circus has the advantage of authenticity. Their new production Babuskin Sekret is based on the Russian fable about a desperate search for treasure concealed in 12 chairs. Actually, the narrative is pretty much ignored and the main attraction of the show is its intrinsic authenticity.
Gimmicks such as pyrotechnics are avoided in favour of old school skills. The Yakovies juggle neon skittles in darkness. The display is so striking that it is only later you consider the skill needed to catch flying skittles in the dark. Overall, the circus is very lo-tech and describing the acts does not do justice to their peculiar charm.
Duo Shmandrovskijs are basically just a quick-change act: diving in and out of sacks and emerging impossibly fast in a new costume. It doesn’t sound like much but by the climax, where a costume change is made in full view on-stage concealed only by a shower of tinsel, you’re hooked.
Some of the acts are not so much eccentric as just odd. One of them is based around skipping – granted it is synchronised to perfection but still hard to take seriously. Contortionist Katia twists her body into such painful looking poses that you feel a bit queasy. The Velosvski offer all the routines (headbangers and so on) that you could wish for from a roller skating duo but do so on a tiny platform ignoring the potential of the massive Lowry stage.
The pre-recorded music is, it has to be said, horrible- bombastic stuff that is meant to be dramatic but rapidly becomes irritating. One of the pleasures of The Doktorov gracefully spinning above the stage is that at least the music has been turned down.
The only disappointment of the show is that the supposed star – the clown Splendid Pavlik – is a charisma vacuum. He is overshadowed by his partner, the striking Klava, who looks like she auditioned for a Tim Burton movie – and got the part.
The Moscow State Circus offers a show that blends classic and contemporary circus acts to remind audiences why tradition can still be in style in the present day
- Dave Cunningham