Pros: The skill of the acrobats.
Cons: The promise of hurtling chaos and perpetual movement wasn’t quite delivered.
Two hundred and fifty years after the first circus performances, and as part of CircusFest 2018 at the Roundhouse, Groupe Bekkrell performed their UK premier of The Bekkrell Effect. The shape of the Roundhouse lends itself to that Big Top feel, and the way the seating was arranged it looked like everyone had a good view.
Upon the stage solid, plain but interesting looking equipment was littered about, surrounded by an array of lamps. When the main lights went down the lamps didn’t light up immediately, so we could hear intriguing sounds of dragging and clinking, huffing and puffing, before the performers were revealed on one of the ropes.
The four performers went on to deliver an entertaining acrobatic display on tightropes, hanging ropes, a see-saw (I know that’s probably not the correct term) and other pieces of apparatus. As with any experts, they make things look deceptively simple and it is easy to forget how much skill and hard work is involved, even in ‘just’ hanging from a rope, perfectly still. They must be covered in scrapes and bruises.
The performance was humorous without resorting to circus clown slapstick, helped by the costumes of ‘headmistress-y’ tweed two piece suits and feathers. One or two episodes were somewhat bizarre though, such as asking a series of rhetorical questions to a hanging rope. The audience, me included, seemed a bit bemused by this; lost in translation maybe. The intermittent sound track of rock, pseudo opera and industrial sounds complemented the action and stark set.
Apparently this routine was inspired by Antoine Henri Becquerel, a nineteenth century physicist and Nobel laureate who was the first person to discover evidence of radioactivity. The blurb promised chaos and perpetual movement similar to the behaviour of atoms in a nuclear reaction. Although the whole thing was very entertaining and skillful, I do not think this particular aspect was delivered.
The show lasts just over an hour, which is about right. I suspect that any longer would introduce the danger of too much repetition, losing the audience’s attention. I mentioned at the beginning that it has been two hundred and fifty years years since circus started. Group Bekkrell show that it is still alive and well, changing to suit modern audiences and likely to be around for a while yet.
Created and Devised by: Fanny Alvarez, Sarah Cosset, Oceane Pelpel and Fanny Sintes
Producer: Bristol Circus City and Bristol Old Vic
Lighting: Cement Bonnin
Sound: Thomas Laigle
Apparatus: Julien Lefeuvre and Florent Pasdelou
Booking Until: 22 April 2018
Box Office: 0300 6789 222
Booking Link: https://tickets.roundhouse.org.uk/production/25037