REVIEW: Circusfest, Compagnie XY

This review was orginally written for the Londonist.

Who would have thought circus could ever be described as quiet or even low key?  There’s no whooping tricks or overt showing off here.  Just carefully considered choreography, often with nothing other than the slap of flesh and focussed breaths as a soundtrack.  Old fashioned French accordion music wafts through some of the show but often there is silence, broken only by the exertion of the performers and, unfortunately last night, a cacophony of coughing from the audience, which happily died out as people became more engaged and less uncomfortable.

The piece consists of many strong poses and repeating patterns, and the odd feat that draws gasps from the audience and outbursts of applause. There’s humour too and all the performers beam both at each other and the crowd.  But mainly all is quiet concentration, many moments low lit and positively hushed.

This is an interesting piece, rather than glittering daring do or leotard clad glamour girls swinging from the rafters, it’s more contemplative and, if it means anything, feels very French.  There were a few slip ups and the performers definitely seemed human, if super strong and poised.

The pace is slow, especially the opening sequence, and the atmosphere created almost haunting.  It took us a while to get into this but by the final curtain we were applauding as enthusiastically as the next person.

Don’t go to this if you want an explosive evening of acrobatics with all the glitter of the cabaret, but do go if you fancy something simple that celebrates human strength, especially when bodies come together to create towering shapes.  And the Roundhouse is obviously a brilliant space in which to watch any kind of circus, even the quiet kind.

Le Grand C by Compagnie XY is part of CircusFest at the Roundhouse.  Find out more at


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