Above – Hewin Lyezkosky Bolivar. Cover – Gagik Avetisyan. Photos – Chowie Photography

Don’t let the name fool you … The Great Moscow Circus is actually an Aussie production, with performers coming from many parts of the globe. It’s toured a lot (although not recently) in that rough and ready way of travelling circus endeavors that stop in many regional and city areas, harboring various daredevil, classic and animal acts in its fold. Thankfully there are no animals in this production although there have been in recent years, according to the program. 

With its tent compound of concession stands, carnival games and intimate seating area, it is old-school circus with old-school aesthetics in a litany of different offerings, almost like a variety show. 

There’s not much pep or pizazz tying together proceedings or building a collective excitement, making it hard to build performer/audience rapport. Opening night (which is traditionally an enthusiastic house) felt a little flat. The audience never really came on board. 

The “extreme” performances like BMX cage riding, wheel of death and bike/scooter acrobatics – acts that rely on daredevil stunts at high heights, inside metal wheels and flying through the air – are all ably performed. The individual artists are in good form and very much in control of their dangerous apparati, delivering their niche skills with precision and focus. 

These kinds of acts require particular set-ups and large props that need to be erected and disassembled on stage. Cumbersome set changes are done as smoothly as possible, but there’s still too many appearances of Gagik Avetisyan as a Charlie Chaplin-esque clown. His incessant audience interaction and stereotypical tropes wear thin in attempts to fill dead time in these change overs. He pulls out every predictable page of the clowning book. 

Lackluster dance and singing accompaniment from a female ensemble use short routines of burlesque, jazz and hip hop to introduce some acts. An opening parade combines the women with all the performers with everyone standing together around the circular stage clapping awkwardly to an uninspiring rendition of "The Greatest Show." Attempts at ensemble cohesion do not quite get there. 

Luckily, the individual acts, plucked from everywhere from Ukraine to New Zealand and Columbia, are, in their own rights, impressive. Tried and true circus routines like teeterboard, trampolines and trapeze are familiar fare performed well. 

Highlights include a pole duo from Giselle Souza and Edison Acero – a combination of fierce upper body control from him and a bendy, dance vibe from her. Other solo aerial acts from Tianni and Tanika Weber hit the mark as short, sharp blasts of physical delight although both are over too soon.

The quartet of bike and scooter riders from Australia who, in baggy t-shirts and jeans, fly from ramp to ramp, narrowly escaping tumbles to the ground, are crazily good. How they make all their multiple flips without losing their wheels is a mystery and testament to how many hours they must practice.

Overall, The Great Moscow Circus Extreme is a case of good acts stuck in a time warp. Production values, theatrical themes and a unified, enthusiastic vision for the entire cast haven’t caught up to contemporary expectation. Even the program is behind the times – the producer's welcome describes a tour that was planned to finish in 2020.

A lot has happened since 2020…

While it’s encouraging  that the company is back roaming after global and political strife kept it grounded, this production might need to shake things up to stay relevant and thriving in a post 2020 circus world.

Event details

The Great Moscow Circus Extreme

Venue: JL Murphy Reserve, Port Melbourne VIC
Dates: 28 June – 14 July 2024
Tickets: $70 – $25
Bookings: greatmoscowcircus.com.au

Also touring:
Wangaratta 18 July – 28 July 2024
Benalla 1–4 August 2024

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