Puck Revel Circus is an exciting young ensemble of circus talent featuring: Cyr Wheel artist Fiona Thornhill; clown and unicyclist Sam Goodburn; aerial straps artist Imani Vita; cloud swing artist Annie Zita; teeterboard trio Seb Parker, Shane Hampden and Emily Lannigan; tightrope walker Poppy Plowman; and juggler and artistic director Luke Hallgarten. The vast array of talent is an ensemble of class, not only in their individual skills, but more so in storytelling skills through playful engagement.
We all get excited when something goes slightly wrong at the theatre. Why is that? Perhaps a prop goes missing or a costume malfunctions. Michael Rosen writes in his ‘book of play’ that as we grow older we lose our connection to ‘play’ and ‘games’. So when something doesn’t go to plan on the stage, we enter a game with the performer or ‘le jeu’ as many contemporary clown teachers call it. We want to see how they are going to solve it; whether they recognise the incident despite the world of the story; or whether they monopolise on the silliness.
The circus often gets a bad reputation and the majority of those who are unsure about it don’t really know how much the circus has changed. Sam Goodburn’s clown is the perfect example of this: he is like a golden retriever desperately trying to work out why he can’t run whilst his legs are tied together. Goodburn creates a nice game to encourage engagement and keeps it light and silly. The vulnerable fool is balanced perfectly with the glint in his eye as he thinks of a new game. The playful audience do sometimes throw him a treat that I think he could have fun with, nonetheless, he captures our imagination from the get-go.
This art of play and games translates throughout the circus acts as each one plays with the idea of danger and failure, some better than others. Seb Parker, Shane Hampden and Emily Lannigan relish in it with the teeterboard as Lannigan sets up the danger and fear of diving off a very high board onto what’s essentially a giant see-saw. Similarly, Parker enjoys a moment of getting caught on his haunches as he is hurled into a backflip back onto his feet.
This idea of play and silliness is well met by Luke Hallgarten as he introduces his act in a shamelessly intimidated way. His reveal that comes next is to die for as he launches the most extravagant and elegant combination of juggling and play, leaving us all very well entertained.
The young ensemble create over an hour of silly fun, whilst keeping us on the edge of our seats with their impressively dangerous talents. Debunking the traditions of ring masters and live animals, the Puck Revel Circus play games and inspire the kids with their celebration of fear.
It runs until 8 August. Tickets: here.
Review: Sebastian Calver. Photo: Tekla Szöcs