FRINGE REVIEW: Limbo
When we think of people who join the circus, we think of oddball carnies – the eccentric outcasts who only fit in with the misfits. As an afterthought, we might think of them as ‘multi-talented performers’. When I think of the circus I see the mystical otherworldliness of Cirque du Soleil. I hear the collective gasp from the audience as they curl their toes anticipating the worst for the aerialist attempting to stick the landing. To me, the circus is everything brilliant and bizarre. It appeals to our love of the incongruous and inexplicable. In many ways it plays into our insecurities as we hand over our money to watch people dazzle and delight us with capers we couldn’t hope to accomplish.
That’s Limbo. Devilishly weird and awe-inspiring.
The show begins with a sinister, chugging harmonica line belted out by the big bearded ringmaster, Elyas Khan, and builds into a strange jam sesh. From here the ringmaster commands the performers with some mean harmonica soloing, guitar strumming, crooning, yelling and beatboxing. The music alone was impressive. Over 50 musical instruments made an appearance throughout the night. The most impressive of which was a 150 tined electric kalimba which looked like a huge assortment of thumb pianos strapped to a massive percussive panel.
The circusfolk of Limbo are savants of the strange. So much so that it feels karmically off-kilter that someone can be a contortionist, physical comedian, tap dancer and mean bass player all at once. One act involved a pole dancer (better described as a pole acrobat) spending 10 minutes contorting like a pretzel around the top of the pole before releasing his grip, and hurtling toward the bottom only to catch himself again centimeters from the floor. With each new pretzel drop gaining momentum, you could sense the butt cheeks in the venues clench for the inevitable. Within the next performance the gravity-immune acrobat became a vocalist, crooning a love ballad whilst his co-carnies danced fervently in an impressive display of physicality.
It comes as no surprise that Limbo is back this year as it is undoubtedly designed to fit the Spiegeltent. With 1920’s hair and costuming, a thrust stage and easy-to-ogle style theatre in the round seating everything feels nostalgic of circuses past (with the added bonus of no animal cruelty). Limbo is a collection of gasp-aloud moments knitted together craftily with colourful, gritty music, recurrent feather motifs and characterful theatrics. Each athletic escapade is more impressive than the last and – oh yeah, did I mention? There’s pyrotechnics too.