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Written by our Manchester Days Out Diaries reviewer - Samantha Birch

It’s Saturday night and the circus is in town!

Inside the red and white big top, the atmosphere is electric, and the air filled with the roar of motorcycles. Mouths are agape and eyes are wide as over two hours of spectacular entertainment draws to its jaw-dropping and death defying conclusion!

The big top in question is the setting for Quirki, the latest show by the dazzlingly talented performers of Cirque Surreal. We caught the Manchester leg of the UK tour which took place at the Trafford Centre. Situated at the far end of the of the shopping centre car park, parking close by was a doddle, and the location meant easy access to a vast variety of food options before the evening performance.

Arriving shortly before the show begins, inside the big top itself, there’s an opportunity for last minute snacks. There’s candy floss and popcorn on offer, as well as burgers and hot dogs if you need something warmer now the nights are getting chiller. There’s even a licensed bar!

We take our seats and the house lights dim. Out on to the stage comes a portly man, brown overcoat and red cheeks. He grins at the audience and takes exaggerated sips from a flask he sneaks out of his pocket. The drink taking effect, he then decides to curl up at the side of the ring for a nap… and then the weirdness begins!

Over the next two hours, our drunken smiley friend is to be our guide, as he wakes to find the arena filled with the nights first surreal performance. A mind boggling contortionist act has the audience gasping as he twists his body into unbelievable positions. As the show moves at pace, our friend wanders the arena, taking in each incredible act. Are we maybe joining him in his alcohol infused dreams?

The show is a mix of high octane dare devilry, and slower ethereal performances. Dazzling acrobatic acts see performers lifted high into the air on ropes and velvet drapes, performing both in pairs, and flying solo. There is a spectacular laser show, with a single performer seemingly able to controls the lasers at will, grabbing hold of them, and swirling them like light sabers, all to the pulsating sounds of techno music. There are high wire walkers in top hats and tails who river dance, cycle and balance on chairs high above the arena. There are many, many more spectacular and dangerous performances throughout the evening, and every act is performed without wires, or safety nets.

These high tempo acts are contrasted with slower performances and abstract dances, all equally spectacular in their own way. There are giant light up paper lantern horses that are paraded around the arena, and a Day of the Dead carnival accompanied by a rousing live performance of ‘La Lorona’. Both our kids’ faces light up at this, recognising the song from Disney’s hit movie Coco. Throughout all this, the cast regularly venture into the audience to dance, clap and raise the atmosphere.

Between these incredible acts, our portly friend makes regular appearances, interacting and playing with the audience. He catches potatoes on forks, thrown by audience members and cheekily sneaks kisses from one lucky lady in the front row. At one point, he ventures into the crowd himself, selecting five members of the audience to join him in the ring. He arranges four of them to make a square and places the fifth in the middle. He then takes some tape from his pocket and wraps this around the outer four audience members. It slowly dawns on us (and the unfortunate gentleman in the middle) that this looks very much like a boxing ring! This is confirmed as our rosy cheeked guide whips his trousers off to reveal oversized boxing shorts and pulls on some gloves, before passing another pair to his opponent.

The resulting contest is superbly done, and the audience are in stitches as the two spar to ‘Eye of the Tiger’ before moving in slow motion to ‘Chariots of Fire’. The fight ends in a double knock out and it’s an absolute hit with the crowd. It’s a fantastic bit of theatre which gets people involved without ever feeling forced or embarrassing.

It’s then time for the grand finale. The audience is hushed as a giant steel spherical cage is brought into the ring. A roar can be heard from behind the curtain and a motorbike rides out into the ring. A quick lap, and a wave to the audience, and he heads into the cage. The door is closed, he rev’s his engine, and takes off, slowly at first but gradually building pace, getting higher and higher. Before long he is zooming around the sphere, side to side and upside down. It really is heart in mouth stuff but is nothing compared to what comes next.

As the biker slows to a stop and takes the applause from the audience, another roar can be heard and a second motorbike heads out into the arena and into the cage. The two bikes circle each other slowly at first before getting faster, and faster. The weave in and out of each other and at times it’s hard to watch as it seems almost certain that they will collide!

The two bikers stop and accept even more applause from the audience.

Then another roar can be heard! Indie looks at me, mouth open, ’three motorbikes!!’ he shouts with an ecstatic and wonderous look on his face. Watching the three motorbikes ride around the cage at incredible speeds is spectacular and one of the absolute highlights of the evening. There is even an opportunity for photos, for a small donation, with the three dare devils after the show.

Quirki is a wonderful, strange, fantastic and surreal show, suitable for all ages, and one that we would highly recommend!


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