Assembly Hall, Edinburgh

I’m not usually a big fan of the circus. The glitzy outfits and macho posturing tend to put me off and prevent me from concentrating on the undoubted skills of the performers. But here I sit amidst a packed crowd at the Assembly Hall. My heart’s in my mouth and I’m thrilled to the core as I watch a team of acrobats hurtle up and down on a trampoline. They land like soaring birds on a precarious wooden perch high above me.

Flip Fabrique hail from Quebec and they are unlike any troupe I’ve seen before, presenting a strange but enchanting blend of circus skills, theatre and music. The conceit of Blizzard is that it takes place during ‘adverse weather conditions.’ Snow flakes drift down onto the stage as people trudge out of the wings wreathed in hooded parkas – but, within moments, the sensible clothing has been cast off and  an aerial act is whirling magisterially overhead.

A snowball fight turns into a symphony of frantic leaping and somersaulting. A performer is thrown effortlessly through the air and caught, an instant before her head makes contact with a wooden floor – no safety nets here! And, throughout the show, Ben Nasrellah performs a live score, tinkling  away on a state-of-the-art keyboard cloned with an upright piano, strumming on a guitar and, at one point, compelling the audience to clap gleefully along with him. He’s as integral to this act as the other performers.

I love the precision of this show, the way that every component (including that amazing keyboard) is wheeled smoothly around to accomodate the next sequence – and the next. The finale features a huge metal rectangle, hoisted up to balance improbably on one corner while the entire troupe clambers around inside it like a swarm of industrious insects. The result is breathtaking.

If you see only one circus act during the Fringe, Blizzard is the family-friendly spectacle you don’t want to miss. It is, quite simply, stunningly good.

4.8 stars

Philip Caveney


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