Dumtectives in Cirque Noir

Theatre, Circuses
4 out of 5 stars
Dumtectives in Cirque Noir MICF 2021 show
Photograph: Leslie Haworth

Time Out says

4 out of 5 stars

Adult circus. Film noir. In the Spiegeltent. Sign us up


A man in a blood-spattered singlet staggers on stage, illuminated by a single spotlight. He groans, stumbles and falls. A rope falls from the ceiling, and he seizes it. Suddenly he’s airborne, spinning, twisting, dropping and catching himself on the corde lisse, or aerial circus rope. The acrobat, Thomas McDonald, enacts his ‘death’ scene with a jaw-dropping series of tricks on the corde lisse, before dramatically expiring, drawing his own outline in chalk, and then, well, drawing a dick on it. 

This is Dumtectives in Cirque Noir, a circus show that’s part Double Indemnity, part Inspector Clouseau and wall-to-wall acrobatic feats. It’s from the brains behind the Trash Test Dummies and Splash Test Dummies, a multi-award-winning children’s circus show. But as you might have guessed from the chalk outline embellishment, this show is not for little ones. It has an MA15 rating, for what your nanna might call crude humour and one particularly raunchy interrogation scene. Oh, and I guess murder – this is a film noir satire, after all. 

The humour is pure vaudeville and seems strangely wholesome and old-fashioned, despite all the anal sex jokes. McDonald and co-stars Amy Nightingale-Olsen and Leigh Rhodes use their acrobatic prowess to create and enhance the story, as well as the humour, using their own bodies, rather than elaborate sets or props, to create an office, a crime scene, a nightclub and a car. The last of these is the funniest, with several elaborate mime sequences indicating transport that are Charlie Chaplin-esque slapstick gold. 

But is it a circus show with humour, or a comedy show with tricks? Definitely the former, with top-class juggling, cyr wheel and other circus acts taking centre stage. There’s an easy-to-follow story and plenty of laughs, but it’s Nightingale-Olsen doing a handstand on top of a giant column (we won’t tell you a column of what), McDonald’s corde lisse routine and Rhodes’s dextrous juggling and cyr wheel routine that get the biggest applause. Until, of course, the big finale, when a blonde broad in a red dress comes in, as such broads always do, to cause a bit of mayhem.


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