Fourth Monkey is an adventurous new fringe company with an eye-catching, ambitious repertoire at this new venue in a well-appointed function room at the back of the Radisson Hotel on the Royal Mile.
Not only are they offering this spirited new adaptation by Steven Green and Sarah-Jane Moloney of the late Angela Carter's great circus novel (once adapted, more successfully, by Kneehigh), but also plays by Joe Orton, Ramon del Valle-Inclan and Sarah Kane, as well as The Elephant Man and a new play about Daedalus, Icarus and the Minotaur.
Nothing about Steven Green’s production is perfect, but it has the sort of loony ambition and raw energy you associate with the Edinburgh fringe but too rarely find.
And it lays out the bones of the novel – the pursuit of the freak feathered aerialist, Sophie Fevvers, by the American reporter Jack Walser, as he joins the circus and travels with them across Europe to St Petersburg and Siberia – with a wild and crazy panache.
There is a chorus of clowns gurning away in the background, a group of chattering chimps, a hilarious horse who’s a mad musical soprano, a sulking strong man, an impatient ringmaster clutching a toy pig, and a fair amount of nudity and jigging about.
It’s a shame that Shala Isis’ raucous, chav-like Fevvers, a riot of pink satin and blonde tresses, doesn’t actually fly, and it’s maybe hard to see what exactly it is that draws Scott McGarrick’s striking, impressionable and likeable Jack into her flame.
But McGarrick admirably conveys the right sense of wonder and enchantment as the madness of the circus erupts around him. And there are some good scenic touches, especially after the train crash and the company disgorgement on the frozen Siberian tundra.