Rouge Review

Underbelly Festival Southbank – until 15 September 2019

Reviewed by Claire Roderick


This “Circus for Grownups” is a glorious night of escapism and joy. The tone is more cheeky than sultry, with the burlesque elements full of fun, and the male performers eagerly becoming the butt of jokes and laughter. With acts that appeal to everyone – Paul Westbrook welcomes “Ladies, gentlemen, and friends beyond the binary” – director Elena Kirschbaum has put together a titillating, high energy show that you can’t help but love.

Unfortunately, opera singer Issie Hart was unable to accompany the acts with her amazing voice on the night I visited, which would certainly have added an extra frisson to the risky acts on display. Paul Westbrook, Jessie Mckibbin and Lyndon Johnson deliver exciting aerial routines, and Madison Burleigh and Liam DeJong are a fantastic acrobatic team. Jessie Mckibbin and Lyndon Johnson’s duet on the cyr wheel is breath-taking, and her fire act had the entire audience whooping and clapping along (the musical choices throughout are eclectic and inspired).

With no introductions between acts, the show encourages the feeling that the cast are flying by the seat of their pants and just winging it, emphasised by the way some acts enter the stage. This adds to the jeopardy as the performers begin before the professionalism, strength and skill on display shines through, but there’s always a cheeky wink or wave just to make sure nobody is taking the show too seriously. The most memorable acts were also the funniest – the men ‘s OTT dance routine, a hilarious hula hoop act involving lamp shades that has to be seen to be believed, and Mckibbin’s routine keeping her 3 male unicorns in check with her whip. Fantastic filthy fun. Definitely not for children, but your gran will love it.