The Circus @ Bosco Theatre, Assembly

Review by Vonny Moyes | 05 Aug 2014

The Invisible Dot have created something special in The Circus. Through a revival of dark vaudevillian charm, throughout August, the show plays host to weird performances from a tumbling lineup of the most inventive comics on the circuit. A merry menagerie of misfits, rejects and parental disappointments, Ring Master Rob Crouch has taken them under his tent, for one last chance at theatrical glory.

The premise invokes the creepy sideshow horror of Tod Browning’s 1932 masterpiece Freaks, yet remains playful enough for the silliness to trump the macabre. Appropriately housed in the George Square Gardens’ Bosco tent – a faithful old dear of a venue – the painted panels and tiered, battered benches add a distinct air of authenticity to the proceedings. Griselda’s nimble digits bleed folky Russian accordion trills into the night air, and with a puff of dry ice, and the Ring Master’s command, you’re transported far from a damp night at the Fringe. There’s an immediate sense that by some twisted alchemy, this is will be unforgettable.

Could there be a more fitting Lion Tamer than Tim Fitzhigham? The Fringe’s own veteran dandy, it’s completely at home in his red tails and top hat, badly brandishing a trainer’s whip. His act is heavily reliant on audience participation, and show’s his ability to master the unpredictable with exceptional comic timing.

Phil Wang’s portrayal of the orient’s own omniscient wunderkind, The Unbelievable Hao wins the room with his nonchalant pomposity. Fielding questions from the floor allows his improvisational skill to shine, earning a huge laugh with the answer to humanity’s eternal dilemma.

Joseph Morpugo takes to the stage as Elemeto; the puny son of a famous fire-breather, determined to allay his paternally-projected shortcomings. His determination to master the elements in a variety of ridiculous ways is amusing for it’s sheer silliness, but the delivery lacks a little of the comic punch the other acts present.

The spangly lyrca-clad Human Canonball is brought to life by absurdist maths-whizz Paul Foot, whose stagetime abandons the structure of the previous acts. For the most part, his appearance involves a Python-esque nasal monologue, with a little audience interaction. It’s true to Foot’s usual calculated rambling style, but veers more to the side of endearing than riotously funny.

Character comedians Natasia Demetriou and Ellie White are next up as the dancing Sexy American Girl Cousins, and are easily the highlights of the show. Their lines are delivered in monotone unison, with a surprisingly convincing Eastern European patois.  When combined with their tragically pained facial expressions and cringingly inept dance moves, the results are nothing short of comic genius.

As Eric Lampaert arrives in the guise of gothic sword-swallower, Monsiuer Bouche, his willowy frame looks oddly natural in monochrome stripes, skimpy unitard and even more eyeliner than usual. Making expert use of his French, his performance is imbued with a perfectly executed Gallic shrug that’s a  little reminiscent of early Izzard. Thankfully his wit is sharper than what he’s swallowing, and he has the room in fits.

The grande finale is a predictable callback, but is executed with such finesse and gusto, it’s easily excused. The Circus is a delight; it’s not Big Top theatrics, but there’s plenty to wow and plenty to giggle at. A late-night treat you’d be a clown to miss.

The Circus @ Bosco, Assembly, 1-25 August (not 11), £16, (£13)