Part of This Is Cabaret's coverage of the 2012 Edinburgh Festival FringeTumble Circus claims to turn the tradition of its genre upside-down. Consisting of eclectic Swede Tina Segner and Irish rogue Ken Fanning, This Is What We Do For A Living lives up to its promise. If it’s sequins you’re looking for, you won’t find them here. Instead, the duo pairs its stunts with a dramatic, behind-the-scenes view of their long-standing professional partnership.

Fresh from winning the 2012 Adelaide Fringe Best Circus Award, this show offers a blend of slapstick acrobatics, touching intimate moments and blazing arguments, set to a 90s playlist. Moving through segments that demonstrate their skills, each presentation of a different circus discipline either moves the loose narrative along, or gives the audience a deeper understanding of the couple’s relationship.

Tumble Circus: spot-on comic timing in a refreshing change from traditional circus shows

Tumble Circus: spot-on comic timing in a refreshing change from traditional circus shows

Some sections are more insightful and engaging than others. Their innovative method to get into a dress via a hula hoop would make getting out of bed much more exciting. They then progress to a delightful routine in which Segner lazily moves through all the standard hoop manoeuvres against a string version of Radiohead’s No Surprises, leaving Fanning to half-heartedly toss handfuls of confetti in the “ta-da” moments. This is one of many gently amusing moments that provoke giggling and regular smatterings of applause.

Vocal engagement with the audience is a definite strength of the show, with spot-on comic timing and excellent one-liners – a favourite of mine being Fanning’s exclamation of “I’m improvising! It’s what professionals do!” It makes a refreshing change to hear the comments of circus performers, rather than simply gawping at their unusual talents.

The show is clearly styled as a more abstract and personal form of circus. Instead of a ringmaster, a story that is indeed worth some consideration. But I did miss the thrills of high-impact circus routines. Perhaps others did as well, with a few audience walk-outs in the slower mid-section.

Once you accept the circus-play format, you can live without the sequins. Still, their closing trapeze double-act, clearly their speciality, is their most charming moment. Rather than merely touching upon their athletic talents like much of the show, it fully explores them, with humour. In the end, it leaves you with a longing for more circus.

Tumble Circus: This Is What We Do for a Living. Underbelly Bristo Square, Edinburgh EH8 9AL (Venue 300). 2-12, 14-27 August, 15:40. £6-14 (£10-12 concessions).


Photos courtesy of the artists