Two things have hindered my circus aspirations. My short tendons and my lack of coordination. But for my lacking in these rather key areas I like to think I would be dangling from the rafters of The London Wonderground on the Southbank juggling fire with one hand and balancing a fellow contortionist on the other.
Of course the jealousy I felt watching the highly skilled performers of Australian outfit Circa was completely without foundation as their incredible acts are not just the product of supple limbs and the ability to catch, but also of immense dedication, physical prowess and good old fashioned blood, sweat, tears and bruises.
Due to the constant flow of glossy high budget Cirque de Soleil productions that fanfare through London, I've almost become numbed to circus acrobatics that are often on such a grand scale that the raw skills are lost amongst the flashing lights and glitter. But in the intimate surroundings of the London Wonderground, Circa's Beyond has brought circus back to the people with incredible skill and perfectly timed and pitched humour.
As I sat there just feet from the stage I could see every bead of sweat and hear every outtake of breath from the performers as they finished their moments in the spotlight. I was on the edge of my seat and fully immersed in the spectacle as I watched contortionists stretch, aerial cloth and strap dancers spin, paper manipulators twist... I won't spoil the acts but I'm sure I wasn't the only audience member who worried about how the performers' joints (especially in their necks) will hold up in old age.
Beyond aims to blur the line between human and beast and, in circus, this line is very thin indeed as when one watches Circa you are reminded of how resilient and powerful the human body is. Humans are beasts to be reckoned with and the world of Circa's Beyond makes this fact starkly apparent.
Cirque de Soleil should go and see Circa in order to remind themselves what exciting and visceral circus is all about. And to the members of Circa I say this, if there were moments of immense skill and physical hardship that were not met by my applause that was not a reflection of the act but mainly because I can't clap when my mouth and eyes are wide open in astonishment.
- Richard Campbell