Tumble Circus calls itself “Circus of the absurd”, and its satirical Fringe show Unsuitable features a cast of five talented performers from Ireland, Finland, Sweden, Switzerland and Australia.
As the lights dim, the music booms loudly in the Royal Croquet Club’s almost uncomfortably small Empire Theatre and the performers take to the stage, looking gritty in their dirty white shirts and shorts.
They stand, glaring into the audience, and it is immediately obvious that these are not what you would call “traditional” circus performers; their refusal to fit that mould and be what society deems “normal” becomes a powerful ode to the individual’s struggles for acceptance in a society which judges difference harshly.
Launching into their first act, the five engage in a stylised fight (one of many throughout the night), throwing punches, shouting, pushing and pulling each other in a tightly choreographed routine about the struggle for power and control. As the show continues, the bickering escalates, at one point spilling into the audience (be prepared to be hit with soft objects or sprayed with water).
Inspired in part by the cultural and political climate of the troupe’s home city, Belfast, many of the cleverly crafted routines explore themes such as gender, sexuality and intolerance, and all are designed to showcase the performers’ agility and physical strength. Some of the tricks seem precarious, and this can make for a nerve-racking viewing experience, particularly since the performers do not appear to use safety wires or harnesses.
The show’s humour is mostly provided by a rather sad excuse for a clown (whose demeanour is reminiscent of Winnie the Pooh’s depressed friend Eeyore) – and his material quickly plunges Unsuitable into the adults-only realm. The jokes are hit and miss, with a few going on far longer than necessary.
While it does feature some traditional circus acts, such as the trapeze and tightrope walking, Unsuitable is not your conventional circus show – but it’s certainly an unusual way to spend an evening.
Unsuitable plays at The Royal Croquet Club until March 18. Read more InDaily Fringe reviews and stories here.