Highwire Entertainment calls this show ‘Circus for grown-ups’, and they’re not wrong.
Rouge, Underbelly's Circus Hub on the Meadows, Edinburgh * * * *
Clearly on a mission to get the audience as hot and sweaty as they are, the performers wheel out sex appeal from the start, headed by cheeky compere Paul Westbrook who’d be a blast to spend a night on the town with.
But we’ve only got him for an hour, and he – and the rest of this talented troupe – put that time to good use. With so much circus to choose from at the Fringe, every company is looking for a unique selling point. Apart from being naughtier than the average show, Rouge has the unlikely addition of Issie Hart, a soprano who gives each routine a touch of class with her crystalline vocals, delivering opera, pop and jazz numbers.
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In this heady atmosphere, the acts themselves could easily play second fiddle – but although light-hearted intermissions abound (a striptease, with pants pulled down, and carrots put to unusual use is one such) their hard-won skill shines through. Hand balancer Lyndon Johnson is solid as a rock, lifting bodies high in the air or playing his part in a people tower.
Jessie Mckibbin strides onto the stage with a bull whip, keeping the men in check as she slices the head from the roses they’re clutching. And acrobatic duo Madison Burleigh and Liam deJong combine strength, grace and beauty in their routines.
For each cheeky aside or fun moment of audience participation, there is skilful artistry.
Whether it’s playing with fire – across the body and inside it – or spinning countless hula hoops with a lampshade on their head, this troupe knows how to have a good time, and takes us with them.
Until 24 August