The Flying Karamazov Brothers
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Even new vaudeville can grow old. This zany multi-tasking musical juggling act was born in California back in 1973 but, 17 years after its last West End run, its quirk looks a little tired. But the Flying Ks can still throw some impressive curveballs when it comes to showing you how juggling’s like jazz impro – or how a four-man band can play each other’s instruments in perfect harmony while keeping several extra balls in the air.
Sporting kilts, boots, tuxedos and a relentless sense of fun, founding ‘brother’ Paul Magid and his younger sibs, Mark Etteridge, Roderick Kimball and Stephen Bent have tight timing: they can juggle in 5/4, or in the dark with four sets of electric balls which change colour at just the right moment.
They’ve also stocked up on the local jokes since this show’s Off-Broadway run – the best Brit-gag is a four-way juggling play where they apologise repeatedly for dropping each other in it and then chorus, with a wink, ‘We’ve been studying your culture.’
But the funny stuff thuds on the floor as often as it flies. A slapstick mime in which the four don ballet tutus is lame, especially given the sophistication and relative mainstreaming of burlesque in London. Many of the misfires arise from cultural differences in the field of vaudeville: our tradition is less screwball and more camply adventurous.
This is a fun night out and the climax – juggling with dangerous objects that include dry ice and an exploding bottle of cava – showcases the Flying K’s special blend nonchalant funning and real skill. A little pruning and a week or two developing audience rapport so that the interactions feel less forced could lift this show as high as the batons, balls, meat cleavers and cakes that Magid & co send improbably into the air.