Lawrence Swaddle and Sara Berni in A Circus Carol – Photo from Norwich Playhouse
Norwich is blessed with a diversity of performing arts venues and creators and amongst our treasures we are lucky to be the home of Lost in Translation (LiT) Circus, who are based in St Michael Coslany church in Oak Street. They offer a wide range of training and performance opportunities and put on shows that are often spectacular and always memorable. They are first and foremost skilled circus athletes, but they are leading the popular trend of blending theatre with circus skills to add depth to their shows.
This year for the first time they have worked with the Norwich Playhouse and Theatre Royal staff to produce A Circus Carol. This takes the familiar Dickens Christmas tale and works in exciting circus performance and engaging original music. Within the confines of the Playhouse stage the company use every inch of the space available to good effect.
Ebenezer Scrooge is brought to us by Lawrence Swaddle in one of the few speaking roles in this drama. The rest of the seven strong cast play either his downtrodden but lively workers, or various spirits and ghosts. The narration and live music are all the work of Peter Reynolds, a versatile multi-instrumentalist. It may seem a challenge to present the wordy Dickens original in a largely unspoken circus medium, but it works really well. The show runs straight through and at 70 minutes long is just the right length to keep all of your family on the edges of their seats.
Massimilliano Rosetti is the anchor of this troupe, a big man who offers the strength needed for some of the most gravity defying stunts as other troupe members fly high. His company Co-Director Annabel Carberry smiles her way through tricks which just look impossible to the rest of us. Roisin Morris is the highest of the high flyers and seems to spend most of the show in the air, including on the LiT speciality act with Massimilliano featuring the ‘Korean Cradle’. She is also a decidedly naughty puckish spirit.
Matthew Green is a super skilled juggler and all round circus star while Natasha Rushbrooke seems to develop new levels of skill every time we see her with ever more athletic and elegant balance acts and aerial art. Newest to the company is the elegant and accomplished Sara Berni who brings skills from many countries to this charming show. This skilled company make the trickiest of stunts look easy, but in reality they have all trained for years to be this good. The show is helped by the way they work together and their enjoyment at performing shines through all that they do.
If the cast were suffering first night nerves it did not show and they received several curtain calls from the full Playhouse auditorium audience. LiT have always been excellent at their circus skills, but for this Christmas show they have mastered the art of combining circus with drama in a successful and effective way. The Playhouse is also a warmer and more comfortable winter venue than their chilly Oak Street Centre. My only slight niggle is that the music was just a bit too loud, making the few lines of speech rather hard to catch. But this is a grand little show which is on all week at the Playhouse. Take in the show and don’t forget to have a drink before and after in the wonderful Playhouse Bar where the artful dodgers have been given a free hand!
© Julian Swainson 2019
A Circus Carol is at Norwich Playhouse until Saturday 21st December. Call 01603 598598 or go to norwichplayhouse.co.uk for booking and information