Being a three-time audience member of the renowned Cirque du Soleil, I was intrigued to finally experience a performance by which many deem to be their biggest rival, the award-winning Moscow State Circus (MSC). I was however dubious at the prospect of seeing circus performed in such a small venue. Babushkin Sekret was adapted from its big top origins to fit into a smaller scale stage performance and for this it does suffer slightly. Many of the aerial numbers are altered or missing and do not have quite the same impact as they almost definitely would in the vast ceiling of a big top auditorium.
MSC takes a more traditional approach to circus than their rivals Cirque du Soleil, replacing the emotive themes with a panto-esque storyline and generally presenting more of a variety show than an all-encapsulating spectacle. The concept is very entertaining. It tells a story based on the legend of the ’12 chairs’. Set in 1927 in Soviet Russia, our clown, Valeriy, discovers that his grandmother’s hidden jewelry is not as lost as it once seemed. Though the story is used effectively to break up the impressive circus acts, it bares no relevance to the acts themselves and seems a little pointless because of this. Nonetheless, Valeriy and his female companion, Klava make a dynamic duo and give the performance an amusing twist.
Whilst all of the performances hold their individual merits, some are not fault free. It is evident that the performers are not used to the limited space and so some errors of judgment in gymnastic endeavors cause a few trips and slips. The offstage crew accidentally becoming visible in the wings on more than one occasion makes the show a tad more amateur than expected.
Regardless of the small stage, the performance is spectacular in many ways. Some of the scenes have jaw-dropping tricks and display breath taking precision of the circus’ performers. Amongst the standout acts are the astonishing pole jugglers, who perform intricate routines of formation juggling. Their timing is truly astounding and the entertainment factor skyrockets during their section of the show.
Whilst the show is not quite the crème de la crème that the MSC is frequently claimed to be, the silliness and the whimsy of Babushkin Sekret is what gives the performance its family-friendly charm. From gymnastic trampoline jesters through quick-change artists, chair balancing acts to the most impressive skipping troupe you’ll ever witness, you won’t go home disappointed.