I haven’t been to the circus since 1985. Well that was true until a couple of weeks ago.
Circuses (circii?) are like buses etc etc.
People with a passion for reading about circus-based shows showing in Manchester in August by a local blogger, will be familiar with the anecdote told in my post Theatre review: Switch and Tipping Point, when my mum unwittingly became part of a circus show – a clown/basically thief stole her purse in the foyer, throwing her into a pre-show frenzy – only to have it presented to her from the ring in the opening minutes of the performance. Oh how she laughed.
Audience participation in circii (I’m going with it) and indeed most show genres reached whole new levels last night, at the Lowry Theatre with the show Now or Never by contemporary French outfit, Circa Tsuica.
I say at the Lowry, an enormous big top has been erected on the plaza in front until Saturday 1 September, showcasing this fusion of acrobatics and brass rhythms along with 20 young musicians from the MAPAS Jazz Band, Salford.
Well what does that mean? It’s difficult to describe.
…I hear you say, one reader.
Ok. Now when you read what I’m about to write, understand that this is what happened, this is what I saw, and is not the result of any fevered temperature or illegal substances.
Entering the big top to a cacophony of brass and woodwind, myself and my plus 1 of the husband nature, were greeted by…at this point I need to make a decision as to whether I call them clowns, musicians, acrobats, performers…I’m going to go with performer as the safe option. We were greeted by a performer who immediately embraced each of us with a European double cheeked kiss and a plastic tumbler.
In a kind of trance, we took our tumblers into the ring to have them filled with lemonade by a performer on a unicycle, before heading off to be served crepes at a stall. However, our journey to said stall was briefly interrupted by my husband getting a back massage from a performer with two drumsticks.
Still with me?
As the audience took their seats, crepes and lemonade in hand in a deeper trance, we were then taken through 90 minutes of music and circus, acrobatics and trick-cycling all to a soundtrack that felt like a New Orleans-esque, minor key funeral march.
I spent half the performance in open-mouthed wonderment at what can only be described as a spectacle, the other half terrified I was going to be extending my audience participation remit beyond being fed crepes or massaged with sticks, to slow dancing with a performer playing a trumpet or balancing on the back of a bike.
The last time I felt such tension was as a child at the Crucible Theatre, Sheffield, when worried I was going to be called on stage to make the animal noises in a raucous performance of Old McDonald Had a Farm (I couldn’t do pig noises).
I have to say this tense state was all on me as plenty of audience members, young and old, were less physically and socially contorted than myself and eager and happy to join in the goings-on before us. And I enjoyed these goings-on immensely.
The only concern I was left with is
‘how on earth do I describe what I’ve just witnessed?
Short of drawing on comparisons to Cirque de Clunes in Alan Partridge’s Knowing Me, Knowing You, I settled on the trippy, clumsy descriptions above, the photographs interspersed and this public information message:
If you want to bear witness to something unique, exciting, bizarre, unprecedented, exhilarating, funny, odd, bonkers and jaw-dropping – go and see Now or Never at the Lowry Theatre – on until Saturday 1 September.