Circus of Horrors – The Ventriloquist (tour – Colchester)
Forget about the nominal story-line – that disappears well before the interval. What you get is a dazzling array of acrobatics, some magical tricks, black-theatre techniques (those are the ones which use ultra-violet light, fireworks coming from the least-obvious places, a great deal of amplified rock music, mime – and an odd sense of exhilaration audience to cap it all.
The acrobatics are by far the best part, with one performer twirling high above the stage suspended only by her sheaf of blonde hair and another wrapping herself into contortions which look impossible yet are always graceful. Another swoops through folds of flame-coloured fabric, swords and knives are thrown or swallowed and a juggler takes to a bath full of water as well as to the air.
Holding it all together is a ringmaster straight out of nightmares and a cabaret artiste apparently dropped in from the Berlin of the Weimar Republic. A great deal of thought and discipline has gone into creating something as superficially grungy as this show and the Mercury Theatre’s audience obviously appreciated it. Even when at the receiving end of an array of water-pistols and the odd spattering of “kensington gore”.