Circus Abyssinia : Ethiopian Dreams

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Underbelly’s Circus Hub on the Meadows
Aug 19-20, 22-26 (15:00)

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Unknown.jpegCirque Abyssinia tells the autobiographical story of brothers Bibi and Bichu, who dream of performing in a circus. The man in the moon hears their wishes and transports them to the fantasy world of the circus… Here Bibi and Bichu and other members of Konjowoch Troupe embark on heart in your mouth stunts as the two youngest members are hand vaulted high into the air and caught again by human cradles; somersaults, flips and diving from one human cradle to another, they were received with rapturous applause..

Next in the show were a group of female contortionists, who danced to Ethiopian rhythms and bent themselves in every way possible in serpentine movements, they stacked themselves on top of each other and even supported themselves by their mouthes. The audience were captivated. Next was a colourful display using discs spun by feet and arms, amazing juggling of lit up sticks by the troupe and the original and now grown up Bibi and Bichu, and a cheeky clown who the kids loved.

The grand finale was a Chinese pole which the troupe took turns to climb up and perform tricks sliding down. You could not fail to be impressed by this talented and energetic group who so joyfully perform their circus skills. Great for adults, kids and lovers of circus!

Reviewer : Sophie Younger

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JoJo Bellini : Crash Bang Cabaret

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The Stand Comedy Club 2
Aug 17-27 (22:05)

In 2003, JoJo Bellini was in a major car accident after which she was inserted with all manner of metal poles & said she’d be in a wheelchair at 40. That never happened, & instead she’s jiggying it up at the Edinburgh Fringe in a rather mental hour of ‘cabaret.’ This essentially is her singing some classic tunes in various attires, interspliced with rather warm anecdotes as to her life since the accident. A karaoke queen whose voice isn’t exactly amazing, but which is more than made up for by her enthusiasm, JoJo provides a flouncing flagon of breathless & eye-popping entertainment. I rather felt like one of those old guys in the 60s sipping my mild ale just as a group of flower power girls waltzed into the pub in miniskirts & ordering white wine spritzers.

JoJo comes across like a horny Valkyrie, whose principle message in life – & one she preaches –  is to live your life to its fullest & have fun along the way. Deliciously daft, I’m like ‘is she taking the piss, is she taking the piss as an artform, or is she in fact quite serious about what she does.’ The end result is something quite astounding, not brilliant, but definitely watchable. Welcome to Edinburgh JoJo Bellini, a bubbly-loving, doctor-defying damsel, whose late-night antics are a perfect start to a boozy night on the town.

Reviewer : Damo
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Djuki Mala

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Assembly George Square Theatre
Aug 16-20, 22-27 (16.30)

Ten years ago, a youtube clip was posted from a community called Galiwinku, located on a small remote Island called Elcho Island, at the very top end of Australia. It was of some native aborigines doing Zorba The Greek, & it went rather viral. Its protagonists loved to dance, y’see, of among whose number, Baykali Ganambarr gave a recent interview to the Mumble in which he described his family’s love of dancing; ‘When I was a kid I saw my family dance, my uncles, brothers and father mainly traditional in ceremonies. Then I started to get inspired by my uncle who performed with Bangara. I started off with traditional, then came pop ’n’lock, break dance, hip hop and pretty much everything else. Being a kid in small community and watching the first DJUKI MALA dance I wanted to be with this company, in fact I needed to be there.’

Djuki Mala was the troupe formed after Zorba went viral, who have gone on to tour the world. A decade later their show is a slick piece of physical theatre played out in front of & inbetween wee films which tell the story of the group  also their heritage. ‘Despite the past we are still here,‘ says someone from Elcho Island in a film, & for me, the start of the show is the best, when I felt as if I was a colonial inspector on her majesty’s business, sitting beside some tribal chief while his bravest warriors before the ancient dances of the tribe. Amazing stuff, with a recorded didgeridoo – liek a bee on crystal meth – entwining with the shamanic chants of some Aboriginal elder, & the five painted boys piercing the stage-air with spear & limb : an amazing treat.

But then things changed. They’re right little vibe merchants are Djuki Mala, & have decided to present dance routines sprung from their love contemporary music; disco, hip-hop, old musicals, etc. & proceeded to give us a mish-mash of material. The quality was not in question, but the subject matter was a bit Butlins, & incongruous to say the least. The show had rapidly ran away from its proud roots & entered something underneath contemporary dance, a showcase of populist entertainment which of course pleases the masses – & if that’s what you want they do it more than fantastically well – but for me things had gone wildly awry. Yet, we are ALL members of the global village now & Djuki Mala are supreme representations of that. Both proud to be who they are & excited to be able to absorb international culture, repackage it & present back to us it for our entertainment. is to be commended, but I personally I wanted more Aboriginal material, for everything else they did is just a youtube clip away.

Reviewer : Damo
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Circa: Humans

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Underbelly’s Circus Hub 
Aug 16-20, 22-26
19:00

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Circa have been notable renowned within the contemporary circus industry since 2004. Creating influential circus performances to excite and enthral audiences worldwide. The award winning Circa, directed by Yaron Lifschitz has performed in 39 countries, pushing the limits of physical ability, while combining movement, humour, dance, theatre and circus. Circa return to the festival once again to perform ‘Humans’ at Underbelly in the Lafayette tent, a 550-seat venue, which on a Tuesday, was a sell out performance!

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As the Lafayette tent swells with the patiently queuing audience, a couple of performers dressed in black commence their warm-up, playfully undress down to their leotards, using the clothes to assist their stretches. Dressed in warm hues and transparent black clothing, the ten strong performers flip, spin and throw themselves on to the stage one by one to dynamic energetic music. For the past couple of years Circa have stripped back the glitz, glamour and fluffy bunny suits. Lifschitz has changed direction to provide a no frills, just an expert performance of acrobatics and circus art. Supported only by simple spotlights and empowering music.

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The continual energetic bursts of movement and powerful stunts have the audience on the edge of their seat, at times there is so much activity you do not know where to focus. All the while the talented muscular performers make each movement seem effortless. The trust and playful familiarity the Circa cast maintain is admirable. The few props; swing, bricks and hanging belts are used sparingly, centring solely on defying gravity and twisting their inhuman-like elastic bodies into contorted forms. In once sequence they comically try to lick their elbow, demonstrating they are only human, however in the final act this is contradicted, as one man holds and balances four performers on his shoulders. As always the Circa crew do not fail to disappoint. I urge you to see this extraordinary performance before it sells out.

Reviewer : Sarah Lewis

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Camille O’Sullivan: Where Are We Now?

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Underbelly’s Circus Hub
Aug 10-13, 15-20, 22-26 (19:45)


I had been looking forward to this show all weekend, when the big advertisements went up around Edinburgh, Camille stood out, not just for her gothic beauty, but because her advertising campaign was massive, and heavily featured David Bowie. Indeed the title of the show is taken from his 2013 release “The Next Day.” But I knew that this was going to be much more than just a tribute. I avoid Bowie tributes because they never live up to the benchmark of the ascended master, having seen him live nine times, the live repertoire that I have experienced ended in 2004. Any release after that time was never performed live. Interestingly I have never seen a male interpret Bowie convincingly.

black_white_copy.295x0.jpgThe Underbelly Circus Hub is brilliantly situated in the rolling green of The Meadows, a welcome tonic from the busy city streets at this time of year. The queue for the performance that I was about to witness, wrapped itself around a Spiegel Tent in which Camille and her band were sound checking. The piano intro to Life On Mars made the hairs on the back of my neck stand on end. The anticipation was building. We took our seats in the round as the voice of Bowie in conversation greeted the capacity audience, setting the tone for what was about to follow. This was a dedication to the Artists that had shaped Camille’s life, Interpreting the work of her musical heroes. Three ascended masters, Bowie, Leonard Cohen and Jacque Brell. With choice selections from masters that are still in the mortal coil. Nick Cave. PJ Harvey and Radiohead.

With a tight band of supporting musicians, Camille delivered a rock ‘n’ roll spectacular with a powerful voice and for the first time, I was thrilled by live renditions of Blackstar and Where Are We Now & Leonard Cohen’s final offering, You Want It Darker, a song that has featured in my DJ sets at festivals throughout the year, also thrilled. The antenna was further upped by a blistering rendition of Rock n Roll Suicide, a powerful nod to Ziggy Stardust that was introduced by a recording of the late masters farewell speech at Hammersmith Odeon in 1972. This was great stuff. The songs of PJ Harvey and Nick Cave I am not so familiar with, but with a performance as spectacular as this it inspired further investigation. especially the closing number Nick Caves “The Ship” was sung in harmony by the audience.

Reviewer : Mark ‘Divine’ Calvert

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Kin

 

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Underbelly Circus Hub
Aug 8-26 (17.00)

Well it’s here at last the fringe and Kin was to be my first show! I had previously seen the posters for Kin and was intrigued by the guy in the hoop, who was he was the hoop the whole show was there more than one performer? All would shortly be answered I thought as I took my seat beside the stage with a couple of friends. This was to be not only my first Fringe show this year but also my first acrobatic performance so I had high hopes but didn’t really know what to expect.

The lights dimmed the tent filled with smoke and then out tumbled the performers, they weren’t really in costumes as such and wear wearing what appeared to be plain loose fitting clothing which to be fair would be fitting for an acrobatic performance. The stage was pretty bare and was basically a row of blocks at the back one for each performer and a desk and chair in the other corner suddenly they all climbed on to their plinths and stood posing with their heads held high. Then in strolled the most athletic looking woman I have ever seen in my life, now she looks fit I thought as she strutted about the stage. She started eyeing up the guys and then picked one to perform. You quickly realise that the show is some sort of futuristic  selection process for a woman to pick her mate. It is performed with wit and a lot of slapstick and you are drawn to the individual male characters as they endeavour to compete to win the affections of the super fit lady.

Now where was the hoop I wondered that I had admired on the poster, I didn’t have to wait too long probably a third of the way into the show and sure enough they brought out the big hoop. One performer was picked to enter the hoop and show what he had. I was right to been intrigued by the hoop it was a very skilful performance as he duly spun around inside the hoop with an array of special moves with enthralled the crowd. That was impressive I thought but was that it only 5 minutes of actual hooping I hoped not! There were also other tricks performed they brought out a giant seesaw which was used to propel the artists through the air with a great display of various summersaults and twists and turns and It was all delivered at a fast pace with more slapstick thrown in wherever possible which kept the performance both humorous and highly skilful.

Now this was the first night of the show and I am not sure if the actors where suffering a little from nerves or where a little rusty and not quite on point but there were a few of the tricks that weren’t quite delivered correctly with the actors taking what seemed to be quite sore falls. This however actually worked in their favour and the audience empathise with them more when one performer smashed heavily onto the seesaw from a fairly decent height he immediately picked himself back up and carried on like a true professional. That actually got one of the loudest applauses of the night though to be fair there were plenty of moments of spontaneous applause throughout the show. The skill level was generally very high and the tricks where daring.

I also liked the venue itself right in the heart of  the meadows the circus hub is located and on a nice day I would be happy to hang out there and catch a few of the shows while grabbing a few pints at the bar. There are two main tents for the performances and we were there to see Kin who were on in the big traditional blue circus tent to the left. Don’t worry when you see the size of the cue the tent was a bit of a Traduce and everyone fitted in no problem. We had arrived late and joined the back of the cue but when they started seating people we were all quickly inside. My only tip would be if you do arrive a little late try and not sit in front of the rigging at the corner of the stage it blocks your view quite a bit and it can be a pain to have to move about in your seat to try and follow the performers as they travel about the stage. Overall though I had a good time and really enjoyed the show it had an ok narrative to go along with the performance. The tricks were very decent and all of the performers where very fit and gave it their all.

Reviewer : Mark Parker

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Snap!

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Assembly George Square Theatre
August 7-28 (not 14, 21) / 15:00
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SNAP! is a charming and curious show produced by Casa Kim, from a performing troupe that is just one of the 19 groups who are performing as part of the third Korean Season at this year’s Edinburgh Fringe. SNAP! is a spellbinding creatton that whisks you gently into a fantasy world of magical illusions,and provides an enchanting outing for the whole family. The show won Best Production at the Asian Arts Awards in 2016 and this year, seven of the top illusionists in South Korea have returned to expertly lead us through an unusual fantasy experience; magic interwoven with cheeky comedy and clever mime.

The show opened with fingershapes projected onto a screen. Not just standard bunny ears; but deft, practised fingers which along with perfectly timed sound effects, are able to conjure fully formed vicious barking dogs and Frank Sinatra in full flow. The entire show both needed and had a breathtaking integration with the sound and lighting. There was the odd split second delay, at times, but barely noticeable at the rate some of the illusions are going at, which feels like lightning speed. So fast, at times, that you’re likely to be missing the subtlety of a trick or two and that it wouldn’t be amiss to see the show for a second time.

There’s a solid looking door on stage, which opens the way to the magicians’ fantasy worlds. Each time the door opens, we are privy to peeking in to a series of beautiful and soothing dreamscapes, each one dramatic and ethereal in a variety of ways. Each of the seven men embodies a character such as The Alchemist, the Florist, the Oddball or The Dreamer. The three funny Tricksters in their stripey vintage costumes remind us of the silent slapstick of Laurel and Hardy or Harold Lloyd, anchoring the show with short skits like walking through Edinburgh getting pasted with flyers, as we alternate between different realities.

There are moments that are funny and impossible to work out; like the mischievous glove that seems to work entirely of its own accord, or the red ribbon that whistles through the air at odd moments. Clever scenes that juxtapose screen reality and 3-D reality, until we are confused about which is which. Creepy scenes like the strange, unexplained happenings in the artist’s studio. Breathtaking scenes as hoops inextricably disappear and transform into glitter.

Like a highly sophisticated and professional variety show, SNAP! is wonderful and truly novel in its entire scope, gentle and enchanting for children, but quirky and intriguing enough for adults. It manages to feel old fashioned but incredibly modern simultaneously, with its unusual and inventive illusions. But let me not spoil the show. Get down to the Assembly George Square Theatre and enjoy the ride.

Reviewer: Lisa Williams

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