Circus ringing with attitude



Birmingham Hippodrome


TALK about circus with attitude. These young people who have escaped the streets of the Colombian city of Cali through learning circus skills certainly pull no punches with their show.

Urban is fast and furious, blending dance, acrobatics, song and tableaux in a burst of energy and life.

Performed by youngsters who have trained at the Foundation Circo Para Todos (Circus for All), the show is an outlet for their talent and has toured the globe.

Inspired by their own experiences of growing up in a tough city, Urban is gritty and street. From young people trapped in dustbins to dance which mimics fight scenes and ugly confrontations between gangs of youngsters, the underlying toughness of their lives is evident.

And yet Urban is exuberant, life-affirming, energetic and with plenty of humour.

Some of the feats are awe-inspiring as performers leap into the air, balance, take to the trapeze and tightrope walk.

It is a rough at the edges with not every feat being a success but that is somehow forgiven in the enthusiasm of the performers who laugh off a mistake and simply carry on.

There is a tumult of ideas in this 75 minute show as the action speeds through dance into monologue and acrobatics into comedy with even a touch of audience participation.

One particularly moving scene sees the performers carrying candles while dancing with Day of the Dead skeletons as flames are projected onto the backdrop.

Through this scene a performer whirls on a cyr wheel cast in orange shadow through light and smoke. There is something slightly infernal about this scene and yet one can't help but respond to the fact that is acts as a memorial to other young people who continue to die on the streets of South and Central America.

These performers are the lucky few. They have found a talent, been nurtured in it and are now able to share it with the world, in a lively and entertaining production.

Performed again tonight, May 18

Diane Parkes

Barnum and brash . . .


THIS is circus in the raw - edgy, streetwise and, as the name of the show suggests, urban.

There are some traditional circus acts such as slack rope walking, tumbling and some remarkably high acrobatics up into the flies using a Teeterboard, the strengthened kit resembling a playground seesaw which has been a circus prop for generations.

Mixed in with the acrobatics was a story about gangs, drugs, poverty and the hard life many of these kids used to lead amid the poverty and crime in areas of the Columbina city of Cali where many of them come from.

There are thousands of kids like them in Columbia and Latin and South America who have not found escape as these talented youngsters did through the Foundation Circo Para Todos.

Not every routine worked, and a couple were a bit of a let down, the trapeze for example did not seem to be awash with thrills or derring do while the section with the skeletons and Day of the Dead might work better with a Latin American audience where is has some meaning than in downtown Brum. The attempt at audience participation also fell a little flat although audience chat in Spanish is probably a bit of a problem.

The acts were not as slick, varied or as polished as the likes of Cirque √Čloize, at the Hippodrome at the end of 2011, but made up for that with an infectious enthusiasm and some moments of pure skill. To 18-05-12.

Roger Clarke 


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