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Cirque Berserk!

Cirque Berserk!


Riverside Studios

CIRQUE BERSERK! at the Riverside Studios


Cirque Berserk!

“Amidst the theatricality there is beauty and romance and, of course, comedy.”


Against a throbbing soundtrack, we are drawn into a dystopian future. An urban jungle where civilisation has broken down. Silhouetted figures scramble across racks of caged metal. Chaos reigns; and yet there is an underlying precision. An order. The Timbuktu Tumblers, The Khadgaa Troupe, and The Mighty Khaan govern the ground while Hulan, Duo Garcia, and the Berserk Dancers and Aerial Ballet rule the skies. Somewhere in between, the roar of motorcycles and smell of fuselage heralds The Lucius Team; defying gravity and fatality. Toni hurls knives and axes towards his fearless wife Nikol and a giant robot strides across the terrain. Elberel aims her arrow, perched on one hand, shooting from her feet. Antonio Garcia watches, atop his tower of chairs while Sarah Howard hovers like smoke, spinning webs of silk up in the flies.

Welcome to the Berserkus. The centuries-old tradition of circus skills is given the contemporary treatment as the acts unfold before us at breakneck speed. The company of thirty-five performers have converged, coming from all corners of the world. With Cirque Berserk they have no safety net. Yet still they come. Is it dedication, genius, or plain madness? We watch, with palpitating hearts and palms of cold sweat. Is that madness too? Yet as much as we can’t look – neither can we look away.

You think you’ve reached the pinnacle, but the acts get more extreme. Bodies become the skipping rope, the juggling batons. The acrobats are their own apparatus. Contortion is given a new definition in this world where gravity ceases to exist. The performers are not just elastic, they are fluid – their molecules move in mysterious ways.

There is the sense that the artists need a little more space than the Riverside Studios can offer. The traditional Big Top is missing. But they adapt. Just as Elberel somehow manages to distort and compress herself into a bell jar the size of a pickling jar, they work within the limits. Limits, however, that do little to constrain them and their boundary pushing. Nobody is going to envy the person who has to compile the risk assessment.

Amidst the theatricality there is beauty and romance and, of course, comedy. Paulo dos Santos is the giant of the show. All three feet six of him. The warmth of his personality and comic timing shields and then reveals an acrobatic genius – whether spinning in the rafters or being swallowed by an oversized balloon. There is no ringleader. No spoken word. There is no age limit either, upwards or downwards, for the show. The perfect family entertainment – experienced extremely up-close. Although please keep an eye on the little ones, and keep them in their seats. The backstage crew are busy enough as it is.

Enthralling and entertaining and often hair raising, ‘Cirque Berserk!’ mixes the classic and the contemporary. Mixes? It throws them together like an atom collider. And disproves the chaos theory. They make it seem haphazard, and many laws of physics appear to be broken; but one marvels at the sheer precision, timing, skill and concentration that is needed. It would be glib to say they make it look easy. They don’t. Which is why we come away pretty breathless, but thoroughly beguiled.


Reviewed on 10th February 2023

by Jonathan Evans

Photography by Piet Hein Out



Previously reviewed at this venue:

A Level Playing Field | ★★★★ | February 2022
The Devil’s in the Chair | ★★★★ | February 2022
David Copperfield | ★★★ | February 2023


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Cirque Berserk! – 4 Stars


 Cirque Berserk!

Peacock Theatre

Reviewed – 5th February 2018


“The evening is seemingly haphazard, yet you know it is welded with extreme precision”


There’s something refreshing about a pre-show announcement that gives the instruction: “please DO NOT switch off your mobile phones during this performance”. Indeed, photography and filming is encouraged, as is heckling and, of course, cheering. It is a taste of the perfectly choreographed anarchy that is to follow.

Cirque Berserk’s aim is to combine the centuries-old skills and traditions of the touring circus troupe with a contemporary approach to staging. The Big Top comes to the West End – a huge and diverse undertaking bringing together over thirty-five performers from as far afield as Kenya, Cuba, Mongolia, Brazil, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, France and the UK. But these are not just skilled performers. They are characters too, which adds to the evening by shrouding the spectacle in sheer joyful theatricality.

It is a joy ride from start to finish. The talent on offer makes us forget the endless hard work and lifetime of practice that must go into such a production. Instead you just enjoy the adrenalin rush, sometimes missing a heart beat, sometimes discovering your haven’t breathed for a while. The Berserkers (as they call themselves) perform entirely without safety devices. You wonder, too, at the dexterity of the human form. How can mere mortals do this to themselves? The ‘Timbuktu Tumblers’ open the proceedings. The health and safety officials in the wings must be on constant high alert as the seemingly inflammable acrobats burn with more energy than the fire they play with. Swiftly followed by ‘Bolas Argentinas’ who use their bodies and some scary looking hunting weapons as a collective percussion instrument.

Odka, the “Lady from the Bottle” is just that. Apparently vacuum packed inside a tiny bell jar she emerges; a feat in itself, but she then uses her own feet to perform archery with a perfect aim while the rest of her body defies the laws of nature. Next up… I want to list them all but I realise I will have to limit myself. It is like being forced to admit to having a favourite child. But there are highlights; most notably Germaine Delbosq, the foot juggler and Toni the knife thrower, and the climactic ‘Globe of Death’. A melodramatic and arguably clichéd title, but a fitting finale. Mere description won’t do justice here – I’d urge anybody reading this to go and see Cirque Berserk for themselves.

There is an overriding cheekiness to the show; a cheekiness shared by ‘Tweedy’ the clown who threads the whole show together. His comic timing and interaction with the audience is matched by his inventive use of ladders, tightropes and bicycles.

The evening is seemingly haphazard, yet you know it is welded with extreme precision. Part of the enjoyment of acts like these is the vicarious sense of danger, and the concentration we are forced to share. The performers cannot afford to drift for one nano-second. Yet they make it look easy, fun, careless and chaotic.

It is berserk, undoubtedly, but brilliant!


Reviewed by Jonathan Evans

Photography by Piet Hein-Out


 Cirque Berserk!

Peacock Theatre until 17th February



Review of La Soirée ★★★★