For some reason, astonishing athleticism combined with the high possibility of injury is perpetually entertaining. iD, the newest creation from Cirque Eloize (the official opening stage production at the new Marlowe Theatre) is a superb example of what a modern circus can be.
Built around the various skills of a 14-strong troupe, the production initially borrows plot points from Romeo and Juliet, but as the show progresses the storyline is muddied and swiftly becomes a collection of disconnected set-pieces.
Each set-piece focuses on a new discipline, so nothing gets old and the different performers are each given the chance to shine. While one scene is centred around juggling, another sees a mountain-biker chasing other performers across the stage and around the auditorium; contortionism follows a master class in bounce-juggling while fans of street dance are also well catered for.
Most of these scenes work fantastically well, and only on rare occasions do they flat – one sequence involving skipping ropes seemed doomed to fail from the very beginning, more because of the unpredictable behaviour of ropes being thrown around than any failing on the part of the performers.
The cast are individually mesmerising and ,if you are the type of theatregoer who tends to pick a favourite performer to focus on, you will struggle during iD, as each person has their own flair. It's not often that you see trial biking, aerial skills, the Chinese pole and inline skating mashed together in the same performance.
But if the skills onstage are a combination of the new and the traditional, then the production values are resolutely modern. The soundtrack is a mixture of sweeping strings, electronica, Gallic hip hop and rock, while the background conjures up a digital urban landscape filled with graffiti, blinking streetlights and crumbling tower blocks.
The clever set houses a multitude of hidden holes and platforms that allow the performers to interact with their surroundings in a way not usually seen in circus shows. This is put to best use during an exhilarating trampoline sequence where various members of the troupe bounce high into the lighting rig, almost colliding, disappearing into tiny gaps in the set and then reappearing from somewhere else entirely.
Accompanied by thumping music more akin to a club than a circus, and with mind-bending visuals projected across the stage, it's an artistic adrenaline shot you'll struggle to find elsewhere and is a perfect summation of what Cirque Eloize is all about.