Edinburgh Fringe 2013
Internationally acclaimed Circa return to Edinburgh for the first time in four years with Wunderkammer – an exquisite cabaret of the senses. Seven performers of unbelievable ability bend the very fabric of reality. A breathless cocktail of new circus, cabaret and vaudeville.
Even to audiences who already feel wearied by the Fringe’s huge number of street acrobats, cabaret shows and circuses-in-name-only, Circa: Wunderkammer will be a delight. The performers run through a repertoire of breakneck gymnastics, stripteases and aerialist stunts without pausing for breath, carelessly jaunting from farcical humour (extruding a deflated balloon through the nostrils) to tender, gracefully choreographed acrobatic routines.
There’s an obvious cabaret aesthetic, but not enough to be overbearing. Dressed in a cross between lingerie and the high-waisted Superman pants of a 1920s circus strongman, the cast are sexy without ever crossing into the realm of the Fringe’s many sex-comedy variety shows. Even the one striptease element of the show is surprisingly classe: a man hanging suspended from a trapeze, carefully removing the components of a tuxedo one by one. It’s less of the erotic marvel the posters suggest, and more just an exquisite exhibition of acrobatic skill.
The programme is surprisingly varied, heralded by swift changes in the performers’ backing music. A silly skit about popping bubblewrap is followed by a theatrical duet between two men scaling a pole in the centre of the stage. Then all seven performers return to fearlessly flip over each other’s heads or use a human body as a skipping rope, before ceding the stage to cheerily vaudevillian hoop-girl act. And yes, while Circa: Wunderkammer does have hoop-girl act, it’s a cut above those that you’ll see at most cabaret shows at the Fringe. Not to mention the fact that it’s performed by a strongwoman who can carry two embracing girls on her shoulders, apparently without breaking a sweat.
For anyone who hasn’t seen a traditional strongman act, Circa: Wunderkammer will be a particular treat. It may not sound impressive to describe a show as being half dedicated to people lifting each other in the air, but you can’t help but watch with your mouth open in shock at some of the stunts on display. Although “stunts” is hardly the correct word – just years of muscle memory and training, allowing one man to carry three or four others on his shoulders, or for someone to seemingly defy gravity while balancing horizontally in mid-air, tethered to a pole by one leg. You’ll leave the theatre giddy, and probably wondering if the members of Circa were born with more muscles in their body than the average human – or fewer ribs.