This evening, Mike and I took our mothers to the circus. But not just any circus. Oh no, this was the Continental Circus Berlin ON ICE!
I’ve not been to the circus in years, so I was partly excited and partly nervous that I’d have grown out of it. But when we got to the ‘big top’, I became excited just at the atmosphere. There were people selling popcorn and kids with light-up toys, it was all very jovial. We were advised to get there at 2:10pm to collect the tickets and the show would start at 3pm. This meant we had to sit around and wait for nearly an hour. We had a few things happen to pass the time. There was a man who looked remarkably like Charles Darwin wandering about (more on him later), a woman sweeping up (apparently a comedy bit that just didn’t work) and at 2:50pm a powercut. The lights went out. Then they fixed it and everybody cheered. Then the show started.
It opened with Darwin – we didn’t know his name so we took to calling him that – kidnapping a child from the audience and making her watch a magician make a table float. Then he let her help the magician do the exact same thing again. The magician did a few spots throughout the night, but to be honest, I didn’t like it that much. Why? Because all the tricks seemed obvious to me. There were quite a few which involved people disappearing and reappearing in boxes, but the boxes were wheeled out on a trolley type thing, which I’m betting had some sort of mirror system to conceal a hidden compartment just below the box. So once I’d worked that one out, it wasn’t that exciting. Oh, and none of his tricks weren’t done on ice either, which kind of ruined the ‘on ice’ part of the show’s title.
Ah, but then came the ice skaters. Again the skaters came out a few times during the night, and they were well choreographed and had lovely costumes. I’m not really into that sort of thing, it just looks like fancy moving to me, but it was nice to watch. Although one dancing skier did manage to win me over when she fell during a routine and had to ski off stage. I’m guessing it wasn’t part of the routine, and I hope she didn’t hurt herself, but that’s what everyone hopes to see really isn’t it? it’s only really memorable if someone falls over.
Then a guy came on who did the hanging-from-ropes-and-twirling-around bit. Again, quite impressive. However, what made me laugh was that when when he came out, the guy behind me said “Now this is more like it.” After seeing a bunch of pretty young girls in tight outfits dancing around, he’s happier to see a topless man.
Then came the act that made it for me: Darwin!
Before the show, Mike and I were discussing how clowns have become less fun and more scary for kids. Darwin was a sort of clown, but more a ‘bumbling buffoon’ type act. He did a trampoline act which was actually very funny and really well choreographed. Like he’d fall backwards from the board, bounce off the trampoline and land head first in the ropes (that connect the bouncy mat to the frame). I mean that must take real precision to get that right.
One of the reasons why I love this type of act is that people underestimate it. To most people, it looks like he’s just falling around and being silly, but if you look, everything was timed perfectly to the music and he had to be very precise with his movements for it all to flow. This, for me, was good old fashioned comedy theatre, combining trampolining with slapstick. His routines also blended into the rest of the show perfectly. For example, when the stagehands rolled up the giant carpet ready for the ice skaters, he ended up trapped inside the carpet. He also stayed there for the entirety of the act that followed, which was a nice touch, cos I’d expected him to just get out and walk off. He also came out between acts and sometimes joined in with some of the other acts, like the gymnasts, so he really was a big part of the show and a bit of continuity that brought it all together. It showed they’d put thought into keeping everything going without any moments of nothing happening.
Next was a juggler. I’m not really a fan of jugglers, but I sort of feel sorry for them. When you look closely at what they’re doing, they’re obviously extremely talented and must practice endlessly to get it so perfectly timed. But the thing is… it’s not that exciting. No matter how many balls he juggled or how many different ways of juggling them he showed us, at the end of the day I couldn’t get excited about it. I also felt sorry for his ‘assistant’ who spent most of the time standing there waiting, sometimes dancing a little to pass the time.
There were also gymnasts. They were both exciting and boring. When they first came out, they were jumping over each other and flinging each other about, which was fun because there was an element of danger involved and it was very impressive. But then they just started coming forward one by one doing fancy jumps. It was at this point which I thought “Well this is what they do.” I mean, to anyone who knows about gymnastics, I’m guessing they were very complex moves and they were obviously highly skilled, but it wasn’t that visually stunning.
Then we get to the the trapeze artists. There were a few of them, but my favourite (and the one which I may have fancied just a little) was the first one. She was accompanied by a woman singing everybody’s favourite song, Let It Go, from the movie Frozen. Now, I can’t stand that song – and despite having never seen it, I’m sick of Frozen already – but it struck me as a really inappropriate song choice for this act. Here’s a girl twirling and swirling about on a trapeze about 30ft in the air, and below you’ve got a woman telling her to ‘let it go’. She can’t let go of the trapeze, she’ll fall to her death! Some of her routine looked very dangerous as well, hanging loosely high up in the air, I actually felt myself get concerned for her safety (another sign that I’ve matured since my last circus visit). But it was very impressive and entertaining to watch. The lighting was also a gem, as it cast lovely shadows on the tent.
After the trapeze girl, there were more skaters doing songs from Grease, which culminated in the announcement of an interval. During the interval, I went to the toilet. There was a massive queue for the ladies, but hardly any queue for the mens, despite the fact that there were two ladies toilets and only one mens. The toilets were inside a trailer, which meant I kept laughing to myself as I imagined someone driving off with the trailer while everyone was on the toilet.
When the show continued, there were more dancers. This was the point when the dancer fell over. After this routine, there was another dancer. One which I actually found really interesting. The routine was based around ‘two’ wind up toys dancing together. It turned out it was one man on all fours, which was impressive when you consider what he was doing. Because of the wind up toy theme, he was doing jolty dance moves, which looked very funny and also gave the impression of naughty goings on with the female part. This is the kind of dancing act I’d have preferred to see more of. It was inventive, unique and funny.
The second half had more skaters, Darwin spinning plates – which I’ve not seen since a bunch of dinnerladies did it in a talent contest at primary school – and another trapeze girl. It also had knights shooting. A bit like the daggers on the wheel type act, it was a man dressed as a knight with impeccable accuracy. At first it was okay, something I’d seen before, but then when he managed cut a piece of string (holding balloons) and a piece of paper sideways (see photo below) it really amazed me.
The performance finished with a big group of dancing skaters and then everyone came out to finish it off. This surprised me, because there were loads of them, whereas I’d just thought it was the same people in different costumes coming out.
The show lasted about 2 hours, which was just enough I think. Overall, it was a surprisingly entertaining night. I think Mike enjoyed it too. Though some acts were better than others, everything (well, almost everything) was perfectly choreographed and expertly done. Although not all the acts were on ice, it was a nice take on the traditional circus and worked really well.
So, has this encouraged me to visit the circus again? Y’know, I think it has. I really like these kind of variety shows, where you have a load of acts doing different things. It’s more entertaining than just one person standing there for two hours (or 5 in Ken Dodd’s case) talking. I think it’s finishing in Birmingham soon, but I would recommend you go see the Continental Circus Berlin On Ice.
Here is a promo for the show that I found on Youtube:
Our rating: (4 / 5)