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Saltimbanco (Tour – Liverpool)

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
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With staging, characters and costume so vividly bizarre, enhanced by enthralling music, dance and song, you are immediately drawn into the fantasy world which these days surrounds circus acts, highlighting the stunts as opera showcases arias.

Not only that, QED, they now have to compete with CGI and 3D. So they do, with thrills and spills, or the risk of, shining because of the spectacular setting. This looks like gigantic sweetie jars have been overturned, harlequin bright, peopled with a cast escaped from Richard Dadd’s dreams of Hieronymus Bosch. Brightly coloured leotards are embellished with all kinds of accoutrements, plus hairstyles like topiary gone mad and plague doctor rhinoplasty.

This kingdom is entertained by a variety of acts, with willing helpers adjusting ropes, swings and trapeze, wheeling on sets of steps etc. Unfortunately, there’s a lot of business going on which is most distracting. The highlights, such as the girls on the flying trapeze, performing intricate manoeuvres in the tiniest of spaces, could not be fully appreciated with others faffing about like naughty children. Heaven knows how annoying this must be for the performers, even if appearing to be above all this does demonstrate their accomplishments.

There was also a clown: what do you call a mime who comes up with a range of incredible sounds? No idea, but it had the audience roaring with laughter, and even willing to believe that an innocent punter had been cajoled into imitating him, doing a series of increasingly ludicrous actions. Many of the traditional circus acts were paraded, all of them jazzed up: rope climbers; strongmen; juggler; aerialists, using a swing. Hard to say which were most impressive (perhaps the pair playing conkers with lethally long whips – oh, boleadoras apparently), and the synchronised bungee jumping made quite a climax.

But don’t you try this at home, come on down and watch the experts at work. That said, to be honest, to have more than inkling and get the full flavour, best to look at the website. However, it’s still a fantastic night on the town.

-Carole Baldock


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