Underbelly’s Circus Hub on the Meadows – The Beauty
Part circus, part freak show, Blunderland is a self-professed acid trip down whatever hole your fantasies decide to take you. It has all the characters you’d expect to find at the circus, only they are just a bit more deranged.
The rope skipper and ball juggler (Olivia Porter) is so clumsy that they attempt several times to get onto the stage but each time return covered in more bandages. The showgirl (Themme Fatale) gets ditched mid-performance by her boyfriend with a voicemail and reacts how anyone should: sticking a finger up. Whereas the clown (Tara Boom) got pregnant on a wild night out and is now getting an abortion – she’s brilliant not just in her role but as a sleek foot juggler also. Meanwhile, pretty boy Bede Nash stuns the audience with his hula hoop tricks and handstands.
Wearing red lipstick and stilettos, but no underwear (I’ll leave it to you to consider how we find that out), bearded ringmaster (and creative director) Eric Schmalenberger guides us through the night. Often referring to themes of depression, loneliness and anxiety, his deadpan humour is the only anchor to reality we have in this wacky and wonderful whirlwind hour.
Top notch aerials compliment the atmosphere of the spiegeltent, where the artists fly directly over the head of those sitting on the first rows. The final act Emily Chilvers offers a neat routine at the rope, but it is Leo Petland who is the true star of the evening. His number at the aerial straps has an aura of perfection. The pale pink lighting and the melancholic So Handsome Hello by Woodkid are in stark contrast with the high-octane vibe of the rest. His performance is flawless, as if even gravity had paused to look at him.
Blunderland is an explosive array of circus, drag, burlesque, acrobatics and what have you. It will tease your senses and keep you on the edge of your seat. Nonetheless, under a riot of sequins and makeup, hides a timely social message too – resonating even louder from a US-based company, where the right to abortion has just been removed from the constitution. Acceptance and the importance to be as different as one dares to be, are fully encouraged. I should also mention that, if you’re not into bare skin, perhaps give it a miss. Or better yet, take this as an opportunity to get into it.
Creative Direction by: Eric Schmalenberger
Produced by: Blunderland Variety in Association with Underbelly
Blunderland plays at EdFringe 2022 until 27 August. Further information and bookings here.