One aspect that didn’t always fly was the comedy. Clownish intermezzos between acts (to allow apparatus to be dismantled and new ones set up) seemed more necessary evil than entertainment that achieved take-off on its own.
An astronaut clown in a spacesuit leading the audience through the opening of Richard Strauss’ Also Sprach Zarathustra – immortalised in Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey – was only half-heartedly embraced. Further audience participation from Steve Capps as Tape Face (the creator of Boy With Tape on His Face; Sam Wills, has turned the character into a global business) proved good-natured filler.
But it was the elite acrobats people had come to see, and they didn’t disappoint. You could only marvel at a flawless display from a trio performing on Russian bar, flipping through the air with gymnastic grace. No less impressive were the marvellous physique and showmanship of a pair diving and tumbling through hoops of ascending height.
There was the preternatural strength and co-ordination of a hand-to-hand acrobatic duo who didn’t need aerial apparatus to fly sky-high, and an astonishing pole-dancing act of almost superhuman shapeliness and flexibility.
Aerial antics abounded: a trio launching off a specialised teeterboard, a soloist on bungee straps, the dizzying orbit of an aerial hoop routine, and a knuckle-biting performance on Washington trapeze (one fitted for headstands and, on this occasion, a mouthpiece so the acrobat spanned mid-air suspended, quite literally, by the skin of his teeth).
Other acts included trick roller-skating, a glowing cyr wheel and a finale on the aptly named Wheel of Death.
There were some minor longueurs between boggling acrobatic highlights, but they didn’t detract much from a show that will fill children and adults alike with wonder.