The Moscow State Circus performance is an adaptation of the Russian novel, ‘Twelve Chairs’, first published in 1928 and written by IIf and Petrov. This satirical novel tells the tale of a family caught in a new soviet regime, which stripped the ruling classes of property and possessions. Like many who remained in Russia, they had to do what ever they could to protect what they owned. The main character, a desk clerk and former member of nobility, is told by his mother- in- law on her deathbed, that the family’s jewelry has been hidden in one of the twelve chairs from the dining room set. He then goes on a quest to find the chair containing the lost treasure, only to discover that the chairs have been split up and sold individually.
When you think of the circus you may not necessarily think of a classic Russian novel, unfortunately in this case it was completely lost on the audience. The amount of confused looking young children was easy to spot in the half empty stalls, playing with aluminous swords and other distracting souvenirs.
It seemed the tale of the twelve chairs was an afterthought, an easy way to try and amuse the audience in between setting up the main acts, using clowns as the main characters from the novel. This was a little disappointing, until a few mystified members of the audience were summoned from the front row into the main ring, the look on their faces whilst trying to play ridiculous home made musical instruments had everyone laughing. This embarrassment was especially noticeable for one poor woman as she bounced her bottom up and down on a squeaking horn.
Nevertheless after a confusing start, and putting the loosely followed story line aside, the main acts were truly amazing, displaying strength, agility and coordination that would have impressed the Russian Olympic gymnast team.
This two hour energetic evening included, a trio juggling clubs to pin point accuracy, whilst spinning around the ring at speed on a very cleverly built platform. The concentration the three wore on their faces was very noticeable, not only did they have to throw their clubs at a precise speed and distance, but also to an empty space where their partner will arrive a few seconds later. Also a young girl performing the splits from the heads of two male tight ropewalkers, over nine meters from the ground. An arial hula-hoop act that was also suspended high above the circus ring, and many more bewildering gymnastics.
The show seemed to get better and better as the night went on, exploding into the final act, where eight jesters showed off their acrobatic skill, flipping and somersaulting over each other. The costumes were bright and inventive, adding to the creativity of the performance.
It wasn’t only the acts that were impressive, but also the way the show was put together. A large applause must go out to the staff behind the scenes. When the Moscow State Circus turns up on Midsummer Common its like watching a small village arrive. The hard work that goes into putting the shows together is undeniable. The last show ended at 7.00pm on Sunday 9th October, by Monday lunchtime it was as if the circus had never been there.
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