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The Fairy Tale of Circus – Chamäleon Theatre, Memories of Fools:
This was my seventh visit to Chamäleon Theatre, a Berlin company dedicated to producing innovative New Circus and this year celebrating its 15th anniversary. I have come to know and love its work, and with each visit, I look forward to discovering a new and completely different show to the last. The beautiful Art Deco theatre is ideally situated in one of the stunning courtyards in the Mitte area of East Berlin – and with the sheer magic and exceptionally high standard of all the productions I have seen, each which takes a six-month residency, I have yet to be disappointed.
If you’re planning a trip to Berlin, you might catch Chamäleon’s latest show; a charming circus tale called Memories of Fools from Czech circus rebels Cirk La Putyka, guided by star director Rostislav Novák, Jr.
The company was founded ten years ago in Prague by Rostislav and his brother Vit, who first trod the boards at the Chamäleon in 2016, thrilling audiences with their show ‘Roots’. Now they’re back with a team of talented artists, brimming with new ideas and artistic talent. All eight performers come from an eclectic range of training and disciplines, including circus, dance, gymnastics, puppetry, magic, clowning and acting.
Memories of Fools is a fairy-tale of sorts; an enchanting narrative, rich with recollection and magical childhood dreams, and an evening sure to capture the imagination. For some, it will no doubt evoke collective memories of a technological-cultural-historical event that took place nearly 50 years ago, on 21st July 1969, when Neil Armstrong became the first person to step onto the moon. Blurred archive images of this iconic moment are cleverly used to create a dramaturgical starting point for a story, which takes us on a highly imaginative trip – to the moon, and back!
The show begins amongst the audience, where three performers in space suits whet our appetites with daring physical feats and elegant, weightless acrobatics. Then the curtain opens on Hynek Drizhal’s impressive set; a giant a structure of geometrical cube shapes and blocks of colour resembling a Mondrian painting, with a large projection screen set into it which also doubles as a small stage.
A boy (Vojtëch Fülep) and his rabbit are tucking down for the night when before our eyes his dreams of being an astronaut are brought to life, captured initially with an endearing puppet which signals the beginning of his journey into space.
The first half playfully sets up the narrative, introducing us to his family; his parents and an elderly grandfather (Michael Boltnar). The grandfather’s role is central to the story, and very much left to the audience’s imagination…is he reliving his youth? Or does it signify loss and holding memories dear? Whichever, it undoubtedly adds a large dollop of tenderness and plenty of humour – especially as he takes to the trapeze in a haze of dust to brush away the cobwebs.
Memories of Fools is a fusion of physical theatre; dance, spectacular acrobatics, impressive juggling, jaw-dropping aerial work and a teeterboard which resembles a large see-saw, from which ominous looking masked men lithely catapult into the air with ever-growing gusto. The music provides a vivid and evocative accompaniment.
Act Two totally comes to life and really ups the game; moon landings and space adventures are performed with a joyful verve and a whimsical sense of humour. Reminiscent almost of ‘Alice in Wonderland’, a giant rabbit appears, along with a hip swivelling Elvis Presley and a bullfighter. Things get all the more fun and fantastical, temperatures rise, upping the ante – and the jeopardy.
Clowning, magic and wit play their parts – and there are breathtaking feats of strength and trust. Especially admirable are Šárka Fülep Bočková in an aerial hoop, and Solenne Baily and Romuald Solesse, who perform an astonishing balancing act and some thrilling aerial rope-work, which has Solenne suspended in midair, held up entirely by Romuald’s foot!
There are no weak links; each artist brings a new skill seamlessly combining circus, comedy and physical theatre with vitality and enthusiasm. The camaraderie amongst the performers is clear to see, and they create a joyous show, which is quite intoxicating.
The audience is left breathless and enchanted…and what unfolds is a moving tale of both childhood and old age all rolled into one, which is both powerful and emotionally charged.
The Chamäleon never ceases to inspire me with new and innovative circus and physical theatre which does exactly what it sets out to do. ENTERTAIN!
So if you’re planning a trip to Berlin I highly recommend making time for a night out at the Chamäleon Theatre, it may well be the highlight of your trip.
And be sure to get a Berlin Welcome Card, which enables you to travel effortless around the city plus gives you lots of discounts into museums and attractions.
Address: Rosenthaler Str. 40/41,
Can’t make it over to Berlin? Check our Preview of London’s own Underbelly Festival on the Southbank this summer