“ The Chinese State Circus is a touring circus which aims to present the Chinese circus arts to European audiences. The show is based on Chinese acrobatic acts. All the performers come from China and are trained in the Chinese Tradition of horse theatre or Ma Xi. „
This is something a little different to what you may know my reviews to be about. When I heard that as part of the UK Tour the Chinese State Circus was coming to my home town of Taunton I was not really that bothered either way but when I was offered the opportunity of a free ticket to go and see a show I decided to go along and see what it was all about. The touring circus are part of The "European Entertainment Corporation" who also put on the Moscow and Berlin state Circuses.
**The Chinese State Circus**
The Chinese State Circus began touring the United Kingdom in 1992 and has become one of the world's most renowned circuses. The creator and producer of the show is a man named Phillip Gandey who is constantly looking for ways to take the performance to a new and even more exciting level than before. The Circus is about showing how the Ancient Chinese arts have flourished and changed and yet are still going strong in modern times with new and different ways to enhance the show.
The Chinese State Circus show is broken up into two different parts but everything in the show is relevant to Chinese culture going back a couple of thousand years. As well as the UK Tour, The troupe have also toured many countries including USA, Canada, France, Spain, Belgium, Italy, Japan, Korea and Singapore bring their blend of authentic Chinese tradition mixed with a modern twist which is both startling and very creative.
The first half is around 40 minutes long and is all about the start of it all where all the Chinese tradition started a couple of thousand years ago. The show opens with the narrator being mimed by one of the members of the show who mimes in a rather computer game way. You will know what I mean if you have ever played a martial arts game where your opponent in the game lays down some kind of cryptic challenge to you. Before the show opens you will see the poles which will be used first, this is one of the most impressive parts of the show where they perform astonishing acts of balance on these poles which swing. This then leads into the next couple of nearly as impressive acts which are the spinning plates and the "Hats off" Now with the spinning plates the women hold small poles with plates spinning on top, they perform incredible balance tricks and manage to keep the plates spinning whilst performing these amazing things. "Hats off" is another very impressive part of the show which involves a group of men using the hats as part of a very difficult looking sequence of throwing and catching which may sound easy but not when you are doing somersaults every few steps. Next up are the contortionists who demonstrate their flexibility by getting into some very awkward looking positions. The team work in this part is particularly impressive.
Next up are the Shaolin Wu Shu Warriors who demonstrate their awesome swordsmanship with some incredibly quick air stabbing and
when I was watching this part of the show I was thinking their were pretty "brutal bast**ds" who you would not want to mess with when their had a sword in their hand, best not mess with them at all. This leads into the younger warriors which is after a short piece about their ancestors passing on their skills to the younger. This shows that from an early age they get to be very proficient. The final part of the first half is the Lion Dance which features a couple of the circus in a lion costume whilst they perform some great balance tricks.
After a 15-20 minute break and everyone is back in their seats for the next half of the show. First in Part 2 we have The Monkey King with the computer game like introduction to the second part which opens with a song mimed my one of the female performers. This leads into the bicycles and is clearly a great feat with three bicycles ridden by three women and as they ride around more and more people are added to the bike and eventually stand on the bike whilst it goes round. This gets the second half off to a great start for anyone who was in any doubt of whether the second half would live up to the first. Next up are "the two monkeys" who perform a series of balance tricks and this leads into the "Diabalos" which feature the women throwing up the objects and catching them after a series of rolls and somersaults. Very impressive.
This leads into the final few acts which start with a return for the Shaolin Warriors who demonstrate their strength with a series of brick smashing which although I have seen done many times on television it is something different when you actually see it done right in front of you. "Sensual Silks" is one of the most amazing parts of the show when two performers show off their balance and agility with a series of tricks performed in the air held to the silk which runs down from above. Next up we have the "Hoop Diving" which has a series of hoops which the performers jump through after performing a series of somersaults or rolls. This particular sequence shows great teamwork from the performers. Now we come to the final two pieces of the show, Marking the Olympics of 2008 which were held in Beijing of course these performers show of their gymnastic skills on the bars and showcase the diversity of the show. This leads into the final sequence where they all come back on and receive the applause they so richly deserve for their overall performance.
I was really impressed with the music which accompanied some of the performances, It had a great mix of styles from some dance stuff to more pop ballad like stuff as well as more Chinese music. I think that they did a really good job with the music as the music which was played added to the overall performance and gave something a little extra in the build up to a particularly great piece from a performer. Very good stuff.
Embarking on a current tour of the United Kingdom they are finishing up with two shows today (27th) and then moving to Bath, Luton then Coventry and finally Leicester and Rochester where they finish on 1st November. If you live near any of those places and would be interested them tickets are available from ticketmaster and the venue. Prices range from £10 to £27 depending on your seats. They may not come back for a while so if you are interested then get in there and get a ticket.
This was a very very very good show indeed and one that I went in thinking I would enjoy it and came out knowing that I really enjoyed it. This is one of the best circus performances you are ever likely to see and the professionalism and talent are there for all to see. Having seen them now It's not hard to see why The Chinese State Circus are held in such esteem around the world for their craft. This is a brilliant show that is well worth the money. If you go and see the first show and really enjoy it then why not go again as there are three dates usually. Oh the only drawback is that you are not allowed to film any of the action or take any photos.
We were lucky enough to see the Chinese State Circus perform at Milton Keynes Theatre this week.
The skill of the performers in this show is amazing. The show is however quite short. The first half is 45 minutes and the second half is 40 minutes.
The first half of the show is based around ancient China and replicates a number of the skills that would have been performed for the Chinese emperors hundreds of years ago. This included such things as plate spinning and contortionism.The colours and detail on the costumes was outstanding. It was all narrated by "the monkey King". This was one of the disppointing parts of the show as the performer mimed to a voice over very badly whilst doing various jumps and somersaults. I would have just been happy with the voice over explaining the acts without the need for poor miming.
The second half is more up to date with tricks on bicycles and an amazing trapeze style performance using silk ribbons. The costumes are less memorable in the second half. The finale however is a real let down and I think it would be better if it wasn't in the show. The finale is a tribute to the Olympics and consists of one of the performers miming very badly to a tacky song while a gymnast carries out one of the disciplines, eg rings, beam etc.
The quality of the gymnastics is not as high as shown by the Chinese team at the olympics and it all just felt tacky and cheesy especially when someone came in with a replica of the Olympic torch.
It did have a "Disney" feel to it but we spent the whole of the fisrt half and much of the second going "Wow" and"Oh my God - how did they do that".
If you get the chance do go and see it ans you won't be disappointed - until the finale maybe!