A group of circus artists arrived in Prague from the Kyiv Municipal Academy of Variety and Circus Arts, a matter of days after Russia invaded the Ukraine. They were welcomed by artists from the Cirq La Putyka. Boom is the result.
You don’t need to know any of that to consider this an awesome show. This is raw, analogue, anarchic circus with an electronic soundtrack. No bells, whistles and elaborate equipment for them. We get a couple of Cyr wheels, a tightrope bar, aerial equipment, an array of effortlessly urban costumes and some juggling handle thingies – and then the eighteen young performers who dance, break, strut, somersault, clown and spin their way across the McEwan Hall stage.
This is a high energy hour about young people being young with a thumping, euphoric soundtrack (Igor Ochepovsky). The opening routine questions the peculiar social pressure placed on today’s young people by social media. Stylishly done but so far, so nothing new. The rugpull comes when the apprehensive Ukrainians arrive on stage, swathed in outsize puffas, tentative in their new environment. The following routines chart their meeting, greeting and gradual realisation that though their circumstances are extraordinarily different, they share the same love of movement, circus and music.
The acrobatics are interspersed with pieces of speech, sometimes translated into Czech or Ukrainian or both and snatches of song. ‘I woke up one morning to a message from my friend saying we were at war,’ says one guy. ‘I thought it was a bad joke.’
Rostislav Novak Jr, artistic director of the whole endeavour, makes many bold choices in this production. Traditionally, circus lets the audience focus on a single act or performer before showing you the next one. Boom is thrilling because he dollops all the performers on stage, sometimes at once, simultaneously doing beautiful, extraordinary things. It’s hard to know where to look – in the best possible way.
If you only want an hour of urban, elegantly choreographed, exhilarating circus, you won’t be disappointed. And if you hanker for circus that tells a story, that’s brimming with ideas, served up with panache – and donates a percentage of the ticket price to DEC – you’ll be over the moon.