(European Summer Tour 2003)

(c) J A Waddington 2003
Venue: Millennium Square, Leeds
11th August 2003
Rating:  5 / 5
Reviewed by: Alex Waddington

It was one of those nights when I feared the reality wouldn't live up to the hype. 'Mesmerising' and 'pulsating' were just two of the superlatives used in the literature for Circus Baobab, an African circus troupe comprised of both Guinean and French performers.

But could actions really speak louder than these promotional words in a very temporary-looking arena in the centre of Leeds on a muggy Monday evening?

As it turned out, I had nothing to worry about. Once dusk descended and the show got into full swing, the small stage became a magnet for the eyes. The spectacle started off quite gently, a single guitarist in traditional Guinean dress strumming a laid-back riff that slowly became engrained upon the brain.

Then came the drummers, upping the tempo and beating out a ferocious and relentless rhythm - a brilliant soundtrack to the evening's entertainment. Suddenly three female dancers exploded into life, arms and legs flying in frenzied fashion. But this was only a taste of what was to follow, as admirable feats of strength and agility were performed on length of ropes strung perhaps some twenty feet high.

There may not have been a traditional white-faced circus clown in sight, but the show still boasted lashings of comedy and slapstick humour. For someone who dropped French GCSE over ten years ago, it wasn't easy to follow the spoken elements of the show. But this mattered little, as the troupe incorporated some breathtaking trapeze stunts and mind-boggling juggling displays into their storytelling.

As if all this wasn’t enough, we were treated to some incredible but wince-making acts of contortion, yet more amazing agility on the high ropes and a stunning acrobatic dance finale, full of flips and twists, which drew audible gasps from the capacity cosmopolitan crowd.

Heads bobbed and weaved, as the audience strained to see every part of the action -not an easy feat given the layout of the seating. This is definitely something the organisers need to improve for future events of this kind at the Millennium Square.

But a sore neck didn't even come close to spoiling my enjoyment of this high-octane show, which sated the eyes and ears in equal measure. As an encore, delighted members of the audience poured onto stage, clapping, singing and jigging along with the equally happy-looking performers. With huge grins being flashed all around, it was a memorable end to a memorable night.

Copyright J A Waddington 2003. For syndication rights, please email.

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