The West End seems teeming at present with shows about twins. The RSC is currently performing Shakespeare’s ‘The Comedy of Errors’ (with 2 sets of identical twins, no less) and Willy Russell’s twin-based ‘Blood Brothers’ is still going strong after a 16 year run. And now, here’s a show starring another pair of identical twins. But ‘Caesar Twins and Friends’ is not a traditional play, even though it contains some elements of drama and a vague storyline. It has more of the feel of circus, though it’s essentially a two-man show supported by singer/dancer/contortionist Jennifer Adler, and musician André Borges.
Essentially, the Caesar twins are immensely skilful and versatile acrobats, equally at home performing aerial fetes, tumbling frantically on an inflatable mat, or simply demonstrating their incredible strength by lifting each other into near-impossible positions. The range of their gymnastic capabilities is stunning if not breathtaking, and it’s already won them considerable acclaim and recognition. Although this is their West End debut, the Caesars appeared on the bill of the Royal Variety Performance in November 2005, and have had shows at the Edinburgh Festival for the past two years.
But it’s not just their acrobatic talents that have drawn audiences to their shows. There’s a real boy-next-door charm and warmth about them which, coupled with a slightly mischievous sense of humour, makes them instantly appealing. And since they have highly-toned bodies, sensual good looks and peroxide-blond hair, there’s more than a hint of the homoerotic about their act that was certainly not lost on a considerable number of the first-night audience. At around 5 feet 4 inches tall, they’re also rather shorter than what one imagines to be the norm for highly accomplished gymnasts, and I suspect this only adds to their appeal.
Born in a poor area of Poland, the twins started their gymnastic training at the age of five. With a father who had succumbed to alcoholism, they apparently ran away from home to escape the constant threat of domestic violence, and went on to become World Champions in acrobatic sports at the age of 17. While working for a German circus, Pablo was critically injured when performing on ‘The Wheel of Death’. He recovered thanks to the devoted support of his brother and, rather miraculously, was once again balancing on his brother’s head after only 6 months of convalescence. One part of the current show portrays this event in a moving and effective way, including film footage of the ‘Wheel of Death’ itself.
‘Caesar Twins and Friends’ is divided into a number of stages or ‘levels’ based on the idea (as described rather equivocally in the programme) ‘that the twins only become whole when they come together’. I’m not sure that the metaphorical idea of these ‘levels’ was fully appreciated by the audience, but it didn’t seem to matter, and at least the device served to divide the show into a series of acts that comprehensively demonstrated the diverse and mesmerising skills of these mighty mites. One of the levels is a kind of simulated computer game where the twins take the parts of fighting martial arts ‘animations’. Although an interesting and original idea with impressive baton-twirling and moves, this level seemed to drag a little, losing some of the initial promise and diminishing the originality of the concept. However, other levels consisted of great tumbling, an intriguingly clever upside down bicycle act, and routines involving dangling from sashes and bouncing from a harness high above the stage. To say the least, it’s an imaginative repertoire with a vital and youthful feel to it.
Other levels are designed to provide a change of momentum through light-hearted humour. One involves the twins switching places 10 times without the woman they’ve purloined from the audience noticing. Although it wasn’t riotously funny, the twins handled their ‘victim’ in a sensitive and good-natured way which more than enhanced their boyish charisma.
The final level provides a fitting finale to an intriguing show. Among other fetes, it involves the twins doing dangerous back-somersaults from the edge of an enormous water-filled fish bowl.
It’s hard not to compare the Caesars with Cirque Du Soleil – the slick, polished and inventive moguls of the circus scene. In terms of their performances, Pablo and Pierre Caesar are at least on a par with anything I’ve seen in a Cirque Du Soleil show - though Cirque performers operate at higher levels, albeit with the use of safety harnesses which the twins don’t employ. But in terms of overall presentation, Cirque would come tops. In ‘Caesar Twins and Friends’, there is no set as such – all the action takes place on the bare stage. And that is both appropriate and fitting given the nature of the act. However, the cloth on which images were projected throughout the show had more wrinkles than a cosmetic surgeon’s waste bin, and gave a rather amateurish feel to a show which in every other respect was highly professional, and hugely entertaining.