The Flying Karamazov Brothers presents for your enjoyment their very own unique take on entertainment. Dubbing their style ‘New Vaudeville’, they juggle, philosophise, pun and prank their way through their residence on The Strand.
The brothers are thoroughly cute – in a bug eyed, mustachioed, knobbly-kneed kind of way – and supremely talented at their craft. They are able to juggle anything and play a countless number of musical instruments between them.
Its great fun but these kinds of hi-jinks really need a packed and playful house to make the humour fly. Unfortunately, on a drizzly, half-full evening, the brothers’ jokes are as dampened as the rows of wet socks steaming away in the audience. Curiously, it’s not the kids who are most tickled by the brothers’ escapades. The simple, gentle humour was more appreciated by those you would expect to see as talking heads on Grumpy Old Men.
Throughout the evening, there is little in the way of either style or substance on offer. You do wonder what extortionate rent they must be paying the venue for a couple of cardboard boxes to be ripped apart each night. The show seems out of place in the West End and the troupe seems equally flummoxed to find themselves dropped into prime theatrical real estate.
There are some highfalutin ideas chucked around and it’s difficult to discern if these are all part of the brothers’ comedy. A touch more sincerity would not have gone amiss. Largely, attempts to tell stories through their tricks fall flat. Devils making work for idle hands is pitched about right in the brilliant second act opener, which sees the brothers divert from juggling and getting imaginative with bouncy balls.
The best set pieces are those with sustained juggling, the rhythm becoming more and more hypnotic. Unfortunately the show moves at such a speed that you’re on to the next thing just as you were sinking into the rhythms of the previous piece.
With a show based on the exceptional juggling skills you might expect to be kept on the edge of your seat throughout the zippy 90 minute performance. Disappointingly, the greatest risk in the first act is that you might catch a glimpse of a ‘little brother’ under one of the brother’s snazzy kilts. The risk factor is pumped up substantially for the second act where some audience participation could result in third degree burns.
Not many acts have the power to create such a fun, laid back atmosphere that an audience member would feel comfortable launching themselves towards the stage, mid-show to proclaim “just how brilliant this show is”. Overzealous audience members are deftly handled with some quick improv and it is in the moments where things don’t go quite to plan that the show really comes alive.
Sweet serenades and daring the audience to a juggling competition brings the audience on side with of the performers and despite the show being slightly soggy you leave thoroughly appreciative of the energy the Brothers have put in their act. They don’t seem content until they have raised a smile from every face in the house and pursue these doggedly until they are offered up.
It’s a hugely mixed show, with superb highs and hurtling lows. But for a show based around juggling, that sounds about right.
The Flying Karamazov Brothers is playing at the Vaudeville Theatre until 10th September. For more information and tickets, see the website here.