Key things about installation theatre are that you should not feel bored, insulted or ripped off (yes you Paint the Town Red). On this criteria (and several others) Cirxus sort of works and considering the rather limiting space - a warehouse out the back of Arcola, debuting as a venue - they did quite well. Actually that's damning with faint praise as this mob put in some strong individual performances, had some interesting ideas and may do some really good work in the future.
Cirxus draws on traditions of the carnival freakshow and the very 1950s horror notion of radioactive mutations. If you like compounding freak upon freak, along with other stereotypes from the era including a pleasing, polka-dot scrub happy housewife and a horribly jolly Sunday School teacher with a hymn sheet, you'll be happy.
What's slightly vexing is why such avant garde theatre should anchor itself to the tiresomely reactionary political agenda of opposition to nuclear power. It's cheap political shorthand, the green equivalent of a mother-in-law gag, and also turns the freaks into victims where traditional (organic if you will) freaks found liberation in the circus and sideshow, whatever their circumstances.
If you've previously revelled in Punchdrunk, this might seem tame but others at our preview looked involved and excited, attempting to engage with the strange, whispered narratives and crackles of radiation flitting around them. On balance? You'll be entertained for forty minutes, possibly longer depending on your attention span and there's an opportunity to do crayoning and impromptu jiving.
Chris Roberts & Lindsey Clarke joined the Cirxus for one night only.
As it's Arcola, you can pay what you like on Tuesdays and you under 26s can get free tickets under the Night Less Ordinary Free Ticket Scheme, Monday-Thursday evenings for the first 2 weeks. Cirxus is in town until 13 June, 8.30 in Studio K at Arcola.