Review from: Assembly Rooms, Edinburgh Festival Fringe; 20th August 2019
The large Assembly Ballroom is jam-packed with people waiting to watch The Black Blues Brothers, a comedy tribute to the cult classic film. The stage is set to look like an old American bar, with wooden furniture dotted around the stage and a large radio sat on the bar. This radio will be central to the show, with the five performers fighting for its remote and control over the well-known and catchy songs from the soundtrack.
Circo e dintorni’s show consists of the traditional ‘African acrobats’ troupe routines commonly found in tenting circus, repurposed cleverly into a full-length format that will attract large audiences. They incorporate lots of their skills into the theme, with a ‘broken mirror’ used for hoop-diving and a coat stand transforming into a frame for limbo and subsequently being set on fire. The five performers (Ali Salim Mwakasidi, Bilal Musa Huka, Hamisi Ali Pati, Rashid Amini Kulembwa and Seif Mohamed Mlevi, who trained with the Sarakasi project in Kenya) waste no time in holding back on the skills, with a three-high topped with hand to hand happening right at the beginning of the hour-long show, setting the standard high.
They begin the show in the full Blues Brothers get-up of suits, ties, hats and sunglasses, but this does not last long. Accompanied by ‘You Can Leave Your Hat On’ (originally written by Randy Newman but perhaps most famous for Tom Jones’ cover in the 1990s film The Full Monty), the cast playfully strip down to just trousers and braces and it is soon clear why. We can see the sweat appearing as they perform endless tumbling and daring acrobatics with incredible strength and always a smile. It is a testament to their abilities that they are able to sustain such high energy for the duration.
This is definitely not a show with much depth or great acting abilities but the simple premise and sing-along songs make for easy watching for the whole family. The men wind each other up with plenty of cheesy gags, compete for the affection of a woman in the audience, and even get some children on stage to have a go at the limbo. The Black Blues Brothers definitely captures the over the top fun of the film and is excellent entertainment value.