BWW Review: UNSUITABLE at The Big Top, Fringeworld Pleasure Garden

BWW Review: UNSUITABLE at The Big Top, Fringeworld Pleasure Garden

A discordant soundscape fills the otherwise empty space. Drills and barking dogs loop into comical boings, party horns and a crying baby. A simple row of LED's at the back of the stage set the performance space in the Big Top aglow and high above, attached to the scaffolding, are a set of violet silks and several trapeze bars - a glimpse of what is to come.

The last two circus performances I attended were a study in extremes. One was a sexually provocative circus-burlesque hybrid in Melbourne with full frontal nudity, the other was a Cirque du Soleil production - streamlined and so adorable it was almost twee. UNSUITABLE might also be considered extreme, albeit in a much different way. At times it is playful, rude, and delightfully grungy, with political commentary peppered in among acrobatic feats and slapstick comedy.

Based in Belfast Ireland, Tumble Circus are proud of their heritage - though they certainly aren't above critiquing it as well. One moment they're taking jabs at the Irish Prime Minister, the next they're proudly celebrating the legalisation of gay marriage in Ireland. They also delight in taking the mickey out of traditional circus - some of the best comedic beats in the show come from the deliberate misplacement of feet, hands and faces mid routine.

Although it took the audience a little while to warm up, soon they were cheering their approval. An energetic clowning routine involving a sledgehammer and some truly impressive tumbling and lifts (made all the more impressive considering they were all wearing trip-worthy clown shoes) quickly segues into a variety of hilarious and provocative acts. A comical silks routine sees the female performers fighting for dominance, and a solo clowning routine had audiences wincing with second hand embarrassment one moment and roaring with laughter the next.

Other highlights included a playful duet between two macho cops with a surprisingly close relationship, and a brilliant highwire section which saw the performer being pelted with money, bricks, and giant marshmallows as she attempted to make her way across the wire, and a dance on the wire which was an absolute feat of control and balance.

The ballet inspired ensemble featured some imaginative and impressive group work, but the linking moments didn't always quite land for me. Ballet is hard to spoof well, and I would have loved to have seen a bit more of the ridiculous side of ballet. By contrast, I was enthralled by both of the trapeze acts - the hilarious comedic duo between Tina and her "sister" Helga was as thrilling and skillful as it was hilarious, and a solo trapeze act towards the end of the show had the audience gasping in fear at some of the more daring feats.

For this venue and this show I would suggest sitting on the stools towards the back of the audience if they're available. Much of the action is directed forward, and being further back means that you don't have to crane your neck too far when watching the aerial sections. If you'd prefer to sit close be warned that you may get pelted by wayward cornflakes in the frenetic and hilarious "Day in the Life" sketch which closes out the show.

Traditional circus is hard, but to be able to deliberately add in comedic beats as Tumble Circus have done takes real skill. A well-balanced ensemble with a cheeky, irreverent show that isn't afraid to get messy. Well worth a look.

UNSUITABLE runs until February 17th at the Big Top, Fringeworld Pleasure Garden. For more information and to buy tickets see

Related Articles View More Australia - Perth Stories   Shows

From This Author Ellin Sears

Before you go...

Like Us On Facebook
Follow Us On Twitter
Follow Us On Instagram