Invisible Circus at Boomtown

Friday, 19 August, 2011

Street performers

Boomtown Fair – Invisible Circus Tent – 14th Aug – 18:30 (1:00)

A collective of street performers with 15 years and 20 countries worth of experience, the Invisible Circus acts specialise in the spectacular.  Doc Francisco opens proceedings at the Invisible Circus tent, showcasing acts from far and wide.  The Invisible Circus acts are festival veterans, and perform in sell out shows in obscure venues throughout the year, often accompanied by the Carny Villains band.  Space is tight here too, but between acts he keeps the crowd going, whilst taking the opportunity to air his political views, raising many a laugh at David Cameron’s expense and highlighting his support for squatters.

First act on the stage is Senor Gonzalez Fernandes, skilfully working juggling into what is primarily a dance act.  Dressed as in smart circus attire, the signature slapstick comedy of the Invisible Circus is ever-present, as he sometimes accidentally and sometimes on purpose drops the clubs he’s juggling with, only to recover them with a flourish and continue with a nervous smile.  His is a graceful performance.  Jamie Walker and his diablo provide a similar sort of spectacle later on.  Although the diablo often looks like more fun to use than to watch, Walker is about as skilled as they come, turning a festival pastime into an art form.  Sinita soon hops onto her suspended hula-hoop, wearing a very revealing leotard in leopard print.  Her persona is just as striking, strong and animalistic as her outfit.  She performs to ‘Hungry Eyes’, which, no doubt, is true of some of the audience, and she is extremely well received as she dangles tauntingly above the crowd.  She is very practised, perfecting her routine of poses, stretches, spins and trapeze style moves, and the audience roars for the lycra clad leopard.

In between the circus acts, when Doc Francisco pauses for breath between anti-government jokes, some light hearted comedy takes place.  The Jazz Rabbits, girls dressed in bunny suits complete with oversized heads, sing Shirley Bassey songs; and in a debut show named ‘True Love’,  a girl eats cake to music.  The point of these acts is not entirely clear, but the crowd is in such high spirits by this time that even these are warmly received with laughter, attention and applause.  Coin Operated Boy involves getting a man on stage to act as such, whilst a brazen lady in burlesque attire feigns innocence as she dances around him.  The tune is so catchy that the image of the poor man will stay in many of the audiences’ mind for days.

The tent is packed, and the crowd is constantly asked to shift to make room for the next performance, which could be coming from on stage or above.  The main events are the aerial shows, as they are dangerous, brave and impressive.  There is no crash mat in the Invisible Circus.  On the silks, Miss Ra-Di-Da displays her immense strength, skill and control as she performs the splits mid-air, hangs upside down with extraordinary control, spins around in circles, and ties herself in knots, to be unravelled as she falls from ceiling to floor.  This is the kind of performance which leaves first time viewers open-mouthed.

The show ends with a mime artist, made up in make-up and a striped top, performing his act on a slack line.  He is shaking with pretend nerves as he uses the line to swing, sit or walk on.  Finally, he is handed a unicycle, which he succeeds in riding along the slack line, and the crowd is visibly impressed.  The Invisible Circus acts have held a captive audience for almost an hour, and release them back into the festival.

(c) Claire Higgins 2011

Reviewed in Bristol, 18th August 2011

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