One Night At Big Sexy Circus City…

 Big Sexy Circus City, Edinburgh Festival Fringe; 8th August 2015

Matthew Denby with Swing Circus at Big Sexy Circus City
Matthew Denby with Swing Circus at Big Sexy Circus City

One of two dedicated venues for circus work this year at Edinburgh Fringe (the other being the teething problem-fraught Underbelly Circus Hub), Big Sexy Circus City is home to two tent venues, as well as outdoor performance spaces and the all-important bar.  I will admit that I was expecting more in the way of food and drink trader options, but my first visit is on day 2 of the festival and I know how circus has a tendency to evolve and adapt.

My ticket is for an event listed in the Fringe Guide as a two and a half hour long cabaret, but what I get instead is a hat-trick of separate events, keeping the easy going festival-within-a-festival vibe going.

First up is the Swing Circus, who present a half-hour long genre crossing spectacle of hot-stepping swing dance, juggling and acrobatic performance with a 1940s vibe. The show is produced and directed by Swing Circus co-founder Loz James and, alongside lead dancers Lana Williams and Stephen Salinger (the other company founder), a changing line-up will appear over the course of the festival.  Tonight we get hand balancer and aerialist Gabrielle Parker, acrobat and silks performer Matthew Denby, jugglers in the form of the expressive baby-blued Cal Courtney and chipper Helena Berry, and second swing dance pair Ray Finlayson and Jen Gamracy.

Helena Griffiths in free fire show
Helena Griffiths in free fire show

The energies and let loose spirits of circus and swing seem to fit so perfectly, with the company keeping transitions lively and entertaining, that I wonder why haven’t we seen more of this winning blend before?

After this segment (which, by the way, you get free if you are booking to see either of the bigger shows Wings In My Hearts or Hitch!), we are left to wander out into the grounds for an explosive pyrotechnic spectacle produced by Ms. Merlin, and featuring amongst the performers Duo Su acrobats, and Helena Griffiths performing in a giant flaming aerial hoop.

Captain Ruin with his cony catcher
Captain Ruin with his rabbit trap

The final portion of the evening returns us to the cabaret tent for 45 minutes of diversity in Ms. Merlin’s Interstellar Big Sexy All Star Cabaret, hosted by sideshow performers Captain Ruin, sharply dressed in a shiny dark red suit and devilish goatee beard.  First he introduces comedy escapologist Able Mable, who handles her volunteer beautifully whilst channeling her inner glam and robust daredevil nature.

David Carberry, one of the founders of Company 2, inflates and deflates his torso, working into an oh-so-casual seeming contortion, then twin brothers Kane and Abel offer some sleight of hand, giving away a little of the magic, but surprising us with more.

Able Mable in Big Sexy Cabaret
Able Mable in Big Sexy Cabaret

Captain Ruin grosses out the audience with some of his speciality tricks, utilising hardware store finds and his own relenting flesh, then Ms Merlin herself appears as Wonderwoman in an emancipating burlesque hula hoop routine. (No, burlesque does not mean stripping!).

The cabaret tent has it’s own bar in addition to the main one outside, and people are content to mill around and chat and soak up the laid back festival vibe away from the bustle of the city centre.

During the day are workshops, highwire performance from Ellis Grover, and a dedicated busker’s area.  There is no online schedule, which is a shame, but the Sexy Circus City is certainly worth more than the standard 60 minutes of your time this Fringe.


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