Circus Ronaldo, Fili

Review in Issue 14-1 | Spring 2002

Fili is a glorious mixture of theatre and circus which takes place in a big top. As you take your place, various performers begin the job of warming you up, thus introducing you gently to the running gags, squabbling and anarchy that permeate the performance. The Ronaldos have a long history of circus and the atmosphere is intimate and worlds away from the off-putting slickness of Cirque du Soleil.

At the back of the tent the father of the family appears. He’s all in black with a tricorne hat, mutton chop sideburns, holding a crossbow. He lights the arrow, takes aim and shoots it into a target which bursts into flames. A parade then enters the tent. Music, a pantomime horse and lots of fire. This sets the tone for the show which features inspired clowning, high quality circus skills performed at breakneck speed, a heavy gothic atmosphere and theatre which draws heavily on the commedia tradition.

High points? At one point the electricity ‘fails’. The usher (dressed like a Dutch burgher) stands in the pitch darkness holding a candelabra which illuminates a sea of faces – a living Rembrandt painting. A marionette opera descends into complete anarchy with a randy puppeteer, a diva who sings completely flat, and a rogue dragon which sets the puppet theatre alight. Then, a solemn parade – the family bring on a four-poster bed of nails. The mother, dressed in heavy black lace, takes off her slippers, climbs a ladder of swords and lies on the bed which is carried off. Breathtaking. This show is a treat. Croydon Festival brought it to the UK in 2001 – I hope other promoters in England will bring it over this summer.

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This article in the magazine

Issue 14-1
p. 29