A flawlessly executed hour of circus acts, while telling a timeless tale of true love
Presented by Wonderland Spiegeltent Presents
Reviewed 27 February 2020
Circus Wonderland is truly an accurate description of this show. Loosely following the storyline of a mermaid and sailor’s love, with the mermaid snatched away by urchins until they eventually have a change of heart and let her go, this show runs like a well-oiled machine. Tricks are executed with precision and acts transition smoothly from one to the next, with the storyline tying everything together.
It was great to see the inclusivity of this show, with an AUSLAN interpreter to one side of the stage signing the show.
The entire show was timed well with the accompanying music, with many of the tunes themed to match the mermaid storyline. The ringmaster narrated the story of the mermaid, as well as performing some of his own tricks throughout the show. His professionalism was shown when one trick involving a giant balloon didn’t quite go to plan. Without missing a beat, the ringmaster rolled with the situation, recovering into a routine that was probably more entertaining in the end than the original trick would have been.
The mermaid, who exchanged her tail for mermaid patterned leggings, showed strength and grace in her routines, with much of her work suspended high above the stage. Notable routines included tricks with a hoop balanced on the sailor’s shoulder, and an impressive silks routine.
“Barry” the lifeguard provided plenty of comic relief with physical humour and banter with the ringmaster. His bottle balancing trick, juggling, and other such routines showed his talents as a circus performer in addition to his comedy.
One of the standouts of the show was the female “urchin” and her hula hoop routine. Slick and perfectly timed with the music, her manipulation of the hoops – rolling them across her body, stepping in and out of them in complex maneuvers in addition to the usual hula hoop spinning – was impressive.
The sailor, doing the lifting work in the show, showed strength and stability throughout, while the male “urchin” supported his sibling in her acts with comedic moments, and performed some aerial stunts on a seesaw later in the show.
There was one element, however, that before 2020 would never have cast a second glance. Barry the lifeguard, at the end of a skilled routine involving spinning bowls full of water attached to a rope, took a mouthful of water and spat it in the direction of the audience. While in the past this wouldn’t have had a second thought, it was a poor choice in 2021, with strict COVID-safety measures in place throughout the Fringe. It may benefit the show to consider omitting that particular moment in future performances.
Apart from that one small moment, Circus Wonderland: A Mermaid’s Tale was a flawless show. Children and adults alike will be wowed by the skill of the performers and laugh at the humour. I highly recommend you fit this into your Fringe schedule if you can, particularly if you have young mermaid lovers in your family.
Reviewed by Kristin Stefanoff
Venue: Wonderland Spiegeltent Festival Hub
Season: 20 Feb – 21 Mar
Rating out of 5: 4.5