Belfast’s Tumble Circus takes a sledgehammer to the notion of traditional circus with their aptly named show ‘Unsuitable’.
Featuring a cast of five talented performers from Ireland, Finland, Sweden, Switzerland and Australia ‘Unsuitable’ blends acrobatics and gravity-defying aerial stunts with a twist of dark humour (and a dash of political commentary) to create a unique circus act which is unlike anything you’ve seen before.
Held in The Royal Croquet Club’s quaint (but slightly uncomfortable) Empire Theatre, ‘Unsuitable’ explores themes such as gender, sexuality, individuality and intolerance through a series of narratives inspired in part by Belfast’s social and political climate. The show begins in a burst of music as the rag tag team of acrobats emerge from backstage, looking every bit like the delinquents their characters are supposed to be. Dressed in dirty white shirts and shorts and sporting fierce scowls (and in one woman’s case a sledgehammer) the performers stare the audience down, as though daring someone to start a fight, before launching into the first of many loud and chaotic routines.
Each fast-paced act is designed to show off the performer’s agility and incredible physical strength and is set to an eclectic soundtrack of songs sung in foreign languages; with the occasional English rock number thrown in to represent the performer’s defiance against a system which they believe is holding them down.
Despite featuring a number of traditional circus acts including trapeze and tight rope walking ‘Unsuitable’ is definitely not your traditional circus. The performers regularly bicker amongst each other, engaging in violent stylised fights (meant to represent the civil unrest still plaguing Belfast) – fighting for the audience’s attention, control over the show and ultimately the right to be who and what they are. These oddly chaotic moments escalate quickly and occasionally spread into the audience so expect to be hit by a myriad of soft objects or doused in water at least once during the evening.
There are plenty of jaw-dropping moments as the performers find themselves in increasingly precarious situations but there is also a hint of comedy to many of the acts – although for me personally some jokes were hit and miss while others went on for far too long.
Loud and fiercely energetic, ‘Unsuitable’ is certainly an interesting way to spend an hour but it may not suit everyone’s tastes and those expecting to see a more traditional circus may be disappointed.