The circus tent was packed, with a crackle of expectation from children and adults alike. And sure enough, the Hogwallops family made their entrance with a spectacular bang. There was so much going on, that I didn't know where to look first!
The show is billed as a “dramatization of domestic adventures”, and we begin with an all-too-familiar domestic scene. It is the patriarch of the family's birthday, but it seems that no-one has remembered – or is even particularly bothered. So from the offset, the audience are encouraged to participate, by singing the well-known ditty to the father.
A variety of acrobatic feats follow, including daring and complicated balances involving small washing machines and a microwave. There was an unusual aerial routine using a Zimmer frame – certainly a first for me to witness. Another lovely scene involved the courtship ritual between the Hogwallop son and a member of the audience. With the help of a clever voice-over, it was a very amusing gimmick.
The storyline that loosely drives the show is based on the possession of what seems to be the "sacred banana". Dad wants it, and the rest of the family enjoy winding him up, by keeping it from him any which way they can. While I appreciate that the focus is on the phenomenal skill involved in the circus routines, I would have welcomed a more substantial plot to bind the routine together; the piece as a whole felt a little disorganised, like a series of individual circus tricks on display, and at times grew rather more frenetic than it really needed to.
But there’s no denying the atmosphere they create. On the day I attended, there was another golden moment, when a very young heckler took audience participation to a new level. The sound of his disapproval when a kiss passed between two characters nearly brought the house down, as did their subsequent response.
So, if you like fast-paced circus with a large dose of slapstick, then this family show is a good choice – particularly if you’re bringing children to the Fringe.