The Great Moscow Circus Extreme (Melbourne and touring) – circus review

The “wow” factor is significant in The Great Moscow Circus Extreme, which introduces a number of a dare devil acts I’d never seen before in circus. There is much to savour, delight in and marvel at. From hilarious clowning, high flying aerialists and two-wheel tricksters to spectacular trampolining, pole heroics and springboard spectacle – it is all there. And that is not to overlook two of the all-time great circus favourites.

Photos by Chowie Photography

I speak firstly of the Wheel of Death. That involves a performer rotating at speed inside (on occasions airborne) and outside a steel ring at the end of a long steel beam. And then there is the Globe of Death. As many as three stunt riders crisscross one another at speed in a mesh sphere, narrowly avoiding disaster. It is almost too hair-raising to watch because one false move and they are goners.

A Charlie Chaplin lookalike clown, Gagik, complete with cane and black hat, is a welcome mainstay of this production. He is up first, clambering awkwardly through the narrow aisles filled with patrons while carrying a “Circus Tickets” sign. He gets caught out with an overly large faux cigar he tries to light. It is then time to introduce all the performers, with siren and ring mistress Elly Rowbotham singing the hit tune The Greatest Show.

After The Wheel of Death, the diminutive clown returns with whistle in hand and more hijinks in mind. He prevails upon a couple of hapless volunteers to lend a hand and has them dancing and cavorting, before marrying them off. Funny stuff. Three dexterous fliers leap high and over their compatriots on a teeterboard routine to remember. The mischief making clown runs amok with ropes in hand and a security guard in tow.

An aerialist swings and dangles precariously overhead, performing a series of increasingly difficult and dangerous manoeuvres. The clown frolics with an “air band” (think air drums, air guitar etc.), pulled together on the spot from enthusiastic audience members. One of the undoubtedly highlights of The Great Moscow Circus Extreme is the extraordinary feat of four cyclists over three sets of ramps. On BMX bikes and scooters, they hurtle, tumble, turn and twist at breakneck speed, in a fearless display.

After interval comes another showstopper, when a triumvirate of trampolinists leap from height and perform sensational jumps in perfect coordination. Stunning. Aerial work on the silks is the domain of a lithe and limber performer. The clown with red flowers in hand is given short shrift by five dancers before he juggles, drops and dresses in his “uniform” – coat, vest, hat and cane. Clever.

With bulging muscles, a male and his female companion elevate what hardly seems possible on a pole. Their poise and precision and his strength and skill holding her up while maintaining his balance must be seen to be believed. After the engine revving Globe of Death, the songstress returns warbling Let Me Entertain You while all artistes take a bow.

The Great Moscow Circus is great family entertainment. It moves along at pace with a lively, colourful (the costuming is terrific) and exciting mix of acts, music, song and video clips. I want to make special mention of the crew who are so adept at dismantling complex apparatus, as we seamlessly transition from one act to the next. They do a tremendous job without missing a beat.

Two hours, including a 20-minute break, The Great Moscow Circus Extreme is playing at J.L. Murphy Reserve in Port Melbourne until 14th July. For tickets, go to https://greatmoscowcircus.com.au

Alex First

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