The idea of bringing the raw thrills, danger, exhilaration and sometimes beauty from the Big Top to a West End theatre isn't entirely new, but Barnum this ain't. Nor is it the recent Broadway version of Pippin, itself brought into a circus environment thanks to the work of the amazing Canadian circus troupe Les 7 doigts de la main. That was an incredibly polished display that was integrated seamlessly into the action.
Instead, Cirque Beserk! is a ragbag collection of individual acts, some of them dazzling enough to belong to Cirque du Soleil, others so wacky that they'd be at home in La Soiree, and others that would stand a good chance of success in Britain's Got Talent as variety turns.
But this show also has an entirely thrilling centrepiece — and it's one of the scariest things I've ever seen in a theatre, even more than Lindsay Lohan having appeared in a play in the West End. This is when four men on motorbikes race furiously around inside a small metal globe, criss-crossing each other upside down, with no room at all for error.
I held my breath, just as a figure crouching in the shadows outside the globe held onto a fire extinguisher.
I also held my breath as a extraordinary knife throwing Czech man called Toni threatened to impale his wife as she was set on a spinning disc and he threw knives at her, and was knocked out (not literally, thank goodness) by the incredible skill of a French foot juggler named Germaine Delobosq.
There's an incredible troupe of spring boarding acrobats called the Timbuktu Tumblers who propel each other into the air, seemingly above the height of the proscenium arch itself, and also manage to crawl under a wire that's set up at the height of the bottles that hold it up on either side. Equally impressive are the Finnish balancing duo of Romona and Matti, who manage to support each other's weight in ways that seem to defy possibility.
It may lack the overall beauty of a company like Cirque du Soleil (though it has a better, far funnier clown), but Julius Green's production has its own grungy industrial power, loudly underscored by a nasty electronic score.
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