ZIRK! Circus

The Showring,  Entertainment Quarter, Moore Park, Sydney,  and touring.  Opening Night: July 6, 2019.

Reviewed : 6 July 2019

Photo : supplied

ZIRK! brings all the technological excitement of contemporary circus acts mixed with the age-old skills of juggling, balancing, high flying, and, of course, clowning. All of this occurs under the (very) Big Top, which seats 1650, has a circumference of 40 metres, is held up by king poles 18.5 metres high and is powered by 5 kilometres of cable. Valued at 1.2 million Australian dollars this enormous structure takes three full days to erect.

‘Moving on’ has been the way of circus for nearly 250 years – firstly to purpose-built amphitheatres in Europe and Russia, later in caravans and then trucks to different venues across states and countries. Now freight planes and huge pantechnicons take international circus troupes like ZIRK! all over the world. After its Sydney season ZIRK! will ‘move on’ to Brisbane, Melbourne and Canberra – and it will take15 semi-trailers to do so!

Despite all this, ZIRK! retains all that one expects of the circus, including ringmaster Stanislaw Kryazkov, who, flanked by his talented henchmen – Vasili Trifonov and Master Clown Dmitry Shindrov – warms up the crowd by pitting both sides of the audience against each other in a clapping competition dictated by repeating rhythms blown on a whistle! A simple ploy used remarkably effectively!

The various acts follow each other in choreographed order. Those involving large props or pieces of machinery that require massive ropes and cables to secure, are interspersed with comic routines, most involving the audience – and balls, and water! Balls are spun on fingers or passed Mexican wave style around the audience. Water is poured into hats or squirted from a distance. The pranks are typical commedia dell’arte routines, carefully timed and faultlessly executed – as are the major acts themselves.

The first of these is the Catwall Trampoline Troupe, billed as one of the ‘new wave circus acts’, but one also practised by the kids in our own Flying Fruit Fly Circus, so not so ‘new wave’ after all! Six trampoliners fling themselves from two trampolines up, over and through a spectacular glass wall. It’s a good curtain raiser and obviously a contemporary addition to circus repertoires.

The more ‘traditional’ acts are, of course, greatly streamlined and updated. For example, Emin Abdullaev could be regarded as a modern version of the ‘side show’ contortionists of the old circus world. As he unwraps himself from inside a small glass box and begins to twist and distort his body into joint-separating shapes, one wonders just how badly arthritis will haunt his old age!

Other more traditional but modernised acts are Mexican juggler Juan Pablo Martinez and quick-change artists Sixto and Lucia. The Rubtsovs are a group of acrobatic performers, who, in colourful jester-like costumes, bring acrobatics on to the ‘fast track’. Later, dressed in tartan kilts and employing multi-length ropes, they are the McRubtsov Scottish Skippers! The art of balancing is taken to new heights by Sascha Williams as he plays the guitar high atop a series of stacked cylinders and stools.

The Gerling Troupe use incredible split-second timing and judgement as they leap in and out of four giant chrome spinning wheels that weigh four tonnes. This is breath-taking stuff – and obviously as incredibly dangerous and as it looks.

Photo : supplied

Equally dangerous is the work of aerialists Katya Rubtsova and Anton Markov, who swing, spin and twist 14 metres above the ring without safety net or supporting wires. This is ‘trapeze’ of a different kind. It is one of the most dangerous ‘newer’ acts and certainly one of the most awe-inspiring … and most graceful.

The ‘finale’ of the program brings the Globe of Death and seven motorcyclists into centre ring for a dazzling display by the Douglas Gerling Daredevils. The roar of the bikes and the stunning pace at which they spin and twist around inside the steel globe brings ZIRK! to a power-pumping end.

Like Cirque du Soleil, ZIRK! augments the world of the circus with new and exciting acts that surprise and thrill – and children still scream and gasp, their mouths filled with popcorn, their faces sticky with fairy floss!  Like kids of old they are spell-bound … until interval, when, like the adults beside them, the inevitable electronic devices have to be turned on!

First published in Stage Whispers Magazine