Fringe Circus

Circa:Humans

Underbelly’s Circus Hub on the Meadows

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five stars

Ping-Pong Ball Effect

Pleasance Courtyard

four stars

No Show

Summerhall

four stars

Batacchio

Zoo Southside

three stars

Mary Brennan

CAN less add up to more? See for yourself, with this latest triumph from Circa. In Humans, the whole mise-en-scene has been stripped back to basics, those basics being the ten formidable performers whose bodies transform traditional circus gambits – acrobatics, pyramid-building, aerial and hand-to-hand balancing – into a physical ode to courage, aspiration and joy in being alive. This is a glitz’n’sequin-free endeavour: the unisex garb of plain briefs and black mesh vests puts flexing muscles and sinews on show, in an unhistrionic reminder that there’s rigour and effort involved in every action here. There’s a camraderie of trust as well, that whispers of what can be achieved when people work supportively together.

The music mix swirls from country to country, often with a zippy folklorique feel that picks up the rhythms of worldwide humanity. Meanwhile, the four women and six men in this Circa ensemble are using each other’s bodies as springboards for new directions in acrobatic prowess, candidly risking possible failure because that’s how mankind progresses and evolves. Can a circus show ever surprise not just your eyes but your emotions? This beautiful, fearlessly honest celebration of flesh and blood strengths does just that, and with humour too.

Runs until August 26

THERE'S a lot of bounce in a ping-pong ball, and all sorts of eye-catching bounce in the antics of Upsala Circus, the internationally acclaimed youth circus company from St Petersburg. Off-stage, it’s been a hard-knock life for many Upsala performers but when they come together on-stage, whizzing through nifty acrobatic sequences or getting tricksy with those ping-pong balls, they deliver the kind of upbeat, feel-good factor that makes for ideal family entertainment.

Linking everything together is a mix of live music that really takes account of what’s happening on-stage, not unlike a Foley backing-track where sound effects intensify actions. There’s some nifty beat-boxing too, so when there’s a visually striking, cleverly choreographed “duet” between a big Cyr Wheel and a smaller hula hoop, there’s a delightfully daft “conversation” between booming bass lines and squeakier high pitches, counterpointed by delighted laughter from an audience watching serious circus technique given a playful, humorous spin. In all, it’s a really engaging Fringe debut from a young company that majors on fresh energy and charming personality.

Run ends on August 28

THE CIRCUS music has got the audience in the mood to be thrilled. Those one-handed balances atop a narrow column or the giddy whirls inside the huge, spinning Cyr Wheel are what’s expected of the five women who now stand before us in their cutesy-retro stripey costumes. For them, even on days when muscles ache and bruises need camouflaged, the show definitely must go on, served up with a big, happy smile and a theatrical flourish. This is the back-stage reality that Ellie Dubois acknowledges in her astutely-focused new piece, No Show, in which the five performers also offer details of what it takes to excel in their respective skills.

If the battle to perfect those slick, quick moves on dangerous equipment seems cruelly unrelenting, there’s another challenge and it’s the gender trap. Men can show off and do strong arm stuff, but girls should, apparently, look dainty even when throwing and catching one another. No Show is not a whinge, however – that wouldn’t be professional. Instead it is a generously funny, ultimately moving display of grit, determination and athletic prowess by five feisty women whose talents, insecurities and valiant spirit are well understood by Dubois because she shares in them herself.

Run ends on August 27

Cirk La Putyka have harked back to the good, and rude, old days of 19th century circus in their new miscellany of clowning, acrobatics and live music, Batacchio. Does tradition – devoid of today’s techno-heavy stage machinery – deliver the goods for a 21st century audience? The company’s flair for mischief keeps us well amused. An impish little clown gets caught up in the see-saw flights of mid-air acrobatics alongside the bigger muscled dudes. Hold on: are their skin-tight britches lace-trimmed? And has that girl just made large vegetables disappear by doing the splits on them? Things clearly were a tad freaky in bygone times, and Cirk La Putyka brings that past on-stage with a knowing wink and witty panache.

Run ends tomorrow