Several spectacular performances are let down by faulty sound systems and a cringe-inducing hostess in the final heat of Udderbelly’s circus competition.
Miss Frisky, the self-proclaimed ring leader, opens the show in a yellow corset and cherry red wig. She delivers a painful rendition of a Britney Spears song and is out of tune with the music and the audience.
In contrast to Frisky, the first performer, Alfa Marks, gives a tasteful aerial rope display to piano music. She executes balletic manoeuvres with poise, elegance and undeniable strength, while her silhouette glides across the back of the stage.
Following her we have the cute, be-suited ball jugglers, ‘2p’. Theirs is a cheeky routine to a Django Reinhardt guitar piece. Unfortunately, they drop the balls a few times and fail to incorporate these slip-ups into their otherwise comic routine.
Then we have the stars of the show, aerial rope duo Will &Willy. Within seconds, there is no doubt who’ll win this competition. Professional and dynamic, the performance tells a wordless love story using incredible acrobatics and genuine chemistry. About halfway through the piano music cuts out, then starts again, twice. Unfazed, the performers continue, and the two men get a standing ovation.
Miss Frisky apologises for the ‘iTunes glitch’, but in the following act the music also finishes abruptly. This time we have the glitzy contortionist Maxlastic, wearing the most heavily sequined trousers in show business. Every round of applause is accompanied by a groan which one child in the audience explains bluntly: ‘Ow. That must hurt’. Maxlastic flirts with the crowd and keeps us entertained, though he could use the stage space more effectively.
Finally we have Leo Hedman’s aerial display using two suspended plastic sheets as ropes. Wearing a full white body suit that covers his face, Hedman’s poses strike me as slightly morbid. The creepy sound effects (crunching plastic and a something chainsaw-esque) don’t help. This performance evokes bondage and seems more suited to a fetish club than a three ring circus. The use of lighting and colour is brief and would have been more effective if it had been used throughout the show. Then again, this might be another technical hitch.
We also get a guest performance by the wonderful hula hoop dancer Silvia Pavone, who shows us how the professionals do it. She uses the space well and develops the momentum of her show with confidence and flair.
Then Miss Frisky tries and fails to get everyone involved and laughing by staging a race to vote for the winner. No one is surprised when Will & Willy get the prize. If you don’t make it to the finals, look out for these two, they’ll go far.
- Producer: Underbelly Productions, The National Centre for Circus Arts and IdeasTap
- Host: Miss Frisky
- Cast includes: Alfa Marks, 2p, Will & Willy, Maxlastic and Leo Hedman
- Underbelly Festival, Southbank Centre, London
- Until 12th July 2014
- Time: 19.30
- Review by S. A. McCracken
- 12th July 2014