Review: Cirque Mother Africa, SkyCity Theatre

By Jacqueline Smith

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Contortionists Hassani Mohammed (left) and Lazarus Mwangi. Photo / Christine Cornege
Contortionists Hassani Mohammed (left) and Lazarus Mwangi. Photo / Christine Cornege

Well, they certainly got their timing spot on - Aucklanders are soggy to their bones at the moment.

But the beaming smiles, cheery bongos and helzapoppin dancing of these crazy African performers took the audience to their hot, sunny and dry mother continent for a few hours - or at least to one of her casinos.

The cheeky host did warn the audience to get ready to "freak out". And freak out they did when the contortionist, said to be the most flexible man in the world, turned himself inside out.

He also turned himself into a bird, scorpion beetle and various Gollum-esque forms. A furry face had been stitched into the front of his spandex one-piece to let the audience know when his head was the normal way around.

Meanwhile, guys in tribal-patterned pyjamas turned school-yard games into acrobatics and tiny girls juggled enormous ceramic water pots with their feet.

The master of balance from Tanzania had the audience hiding their eyes as he wobbled about on a balance board, precariously placed on top a stack of four rolling cans, then pulled himself through a hula hoop. He fell off the first time. It was hair-raising.

What sets this circus apart from any modern show in a Big Top is the performers actually look as though they might fall, miss, or drop the acrobat balancing on their head.

The Guinness World Record-smashing Icarus foot-juggling act, featuring a pint-sized acrobat trampolining off someone's feet, was actually the slickest and least nerve-racking of the set.

Many of the cast, who hail from 19 African countries, were originally street performers who were recruited to the circus school in Tanzania. This show is assembled in a way that mimics walking down the most vibrant streets of those countries, taking in the colours, sounds and language.

But as well as showcasing African culture and stunts that seemed humanly impossible, this happy circus' greatest achievement might have been getting their comparatively drab audience to unite, hold hands and sing Bob Marley's One Love.

- NZ Herald

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