Did you ever dream of running away with the circus as a young kid? It’s a strange yet alluring fantasy, and the most recent time I’ve had that feeling was just last week at the Roundhouse in Camden. It was an ingenious show called Relentless Unstoppable Human Machine (RUHM), devised by the Pirates of the Carabina. In fact, it wasn’t so much a show as an experience.
There was no formal narrative, and far less razzle-dazzle than some of your typical urban circus acts. Instead it felt like a series of encounters with a madcap crew of breathtakingly agile, and versatile, men and women. One moment, they were shimmying up ropes, or dangling from poles as if there was nothing to it. The next, they were plucking strings, banging drums or basking in the spotlight, singing their hearts out.
Each member of the cast seemed to either play or toy with multiple instruments. The live music performed right there on stage helped create the sense of having been captured by ‘circus pirates’, for an evening of sea shanties and revelry. At points, both backing pianist and her piano floated into the air, adding to my impression of being drunk at sea.
Now my boys and I have seen some mind-blowing circus, everywhere from London theatre and streets, to festivals like Camp Bestival, Brighton and Edinburgh Fringe. It takes a lot to impress even my 9-year-old. And I’ll have to admit that we were less than wowed by the opening parts. Everyone spinning and swinging on a giant contraption, followed by some impressive, but visually clunky, aerial acrobatics.
However, well before the interval, things take a more interesting turn. Undoubtedly my favourite bits were watching Eric McGill leap and flip on a vertical trapeze (he later does a fun striptease but it’s all PG). Jack Rees grooving on a single roller-skate. Shaena Brandel’s magical aerial set pieces. Seren Corrigan’s tipsy antics on a collapsible staircase. And Ellis Grover, the tightrope walker who trips the light fantastic along the tops of prosecco bottles. Finally, he balances on a chair… that’s balanced on bottle tops!
Before long, the music and mood and multi-talented cast had won me over, and I would have happily kicked off my
entire lifestyle shoes and joined their crew. Evocative, irreverent and a fun night out for the whole family.
Babes Review: Pirates of the Carabina
Ezra, age 12
‘It was a good circus show, very unique. At first I was like, yeah, this is ok. But then it picked up very quickly, especially in the second half. I loved all of the characters’ separate acts. They weren’t just impressive but they were funny at the same time. My standout act was the guy on the trapeze, all of those flips looked very dangerous!’
Jed, age 9
‘It was pretty fun. I wasn’t that into it to start with but in the second half, it did get more exciting. My personal favourite was the guy on the trapeze, he seemed very confident and determined. Also the guy who was standing on all the bottles, it looked really cool and very hard too!’
Pirates of the Carabina’s Relentless Unstoppable Human Machine (RUHM) is at the Roundhouse, Chalk Farm Road, NW1 8EH (Chalk Farm tube). Recommended for ages 5+. 7.30pm (Tue-Sat, no show Tue Apr 10) & 5pm (Sun); £15-£30 (until Apr 15)