Double jeopardy

Theatre - Exuberance and twinkle from mirror-image acrobats. By Theatre - Michael Portillo


Pablo and Pierre Caesar are close to physical perfection. We first encounter them stripped to the waist and upside down. Starting above the proscenium arch, they are lowered head first on to the stage to begin their artsy act, which combines acrobatics with dance.

Part of what they are selling is sex. The programme note proclaims that the peroxide-blond brothers have "perfect appearance, perfect body image". Messages projected on to a screen before the performance invite the (predominantly male) audience to text the twins. During the show, photographs are projected that document the brothers' lives and friendships during their 26 years on earth, including their kisses with both men and women. Supposedly you can tell them apart because Pablo's tattoo is on his right arm and Pierre's is on his left. Even so, I found them indistinguishable.

Their performance is divided into nine "levels". The term is somewhat misleading, as it certainly does not refer to advancing stages of difficulty. It is at the first level that they perform the routines that are closest to conventional circus acrobatics. One twin supports himself with one arm on the head of the other. The lower man gradually descends into a crouch while the upper one moves his body from the vertical to the horizontal, rotating, curling and stretching in slow motion. The muscle control is awesome.

At another time, one twin, feet on the floor, bends himself back from the knees, his thighs, torso and head close to the horizontal. The other has the back of his head in his brother's crotch, his shoulders on his thighs, while the rest of his body is cantilevered in a horizontal. The two are connected only by the strong grip between one arm of the bending twin and the two hands of the one being supported. Most miraculously of all, one positions himself upside down above his standing twin. The backs of their two heads are touching and their outstretched arms are entwined. Gradually they separate their limbs so that the higher twin remains in place only because he and his brother have jutted their heads forward, creating a sort of ledge that supports the 55 kilograms of inverted man.

After level one I was never quite so en-gaged again. The show contains some good-humoured clowning. One twin performs handstands with his shadow cast on the screen behind. After a while the "shadow" begins to do things differently, being in reality the silhouette of the other, who is behind the screen. The piece worked well, with funny sound effects on the clarinet by Andre Borges. Later one of the twins invites a member of the audience to the stage, where a candlelit dinner is set. The rest of the audience watches the twins repeatedly swap places without her realising.

Another illusion involved one of them riding an upside-down bicycle that was suspended from the stage. Meanwhile a video showed a twin riding a hanging bicycle that was the right way up. Were we seeing an image of the other twin (perhaps performing behind the screen) or was it just an inversion of what we were seeing on stage?

The show is punctuated with performances by Jennifer Adler, usually accompanied by Borges, and sometimes by the twins. Adler combines the skills of an acrobat with a good singing voice. In a backless outfit she hangs upside down from a suspended ring, with her long brown hair flowing towards the stage beneath, crooning: "I just can't wait until tonight, baby." It did it for me. Actually, she was a bit too good. When she twirled with the twins, her elegant movements made the acrobats' dancing look surprisingly clunky.

Some of the show borders on the weird. At level seven not much happens on stage, except that one twin dons a blindfold. On the screen behind appear the press cuttings of Pablo's near-fatal accident when, hooded, he slipped from the spinning Wheel of Death and fell eight metres to the ground. He was in a coma and badly injured. None the less, after six months he was once more able to do handstands on Pierre's head.

Unsurprisingly, the Wheel of Death does not feature in the act that they have brought to London. The performance climaxes with a spectacular but gentler stunt. They use a round-bottomed glass bowl, perhaps six feet in diameter at the top, containing 800 litres of water. With their bodies intertwined, they become a two-headed aquatic creature. But when one head is above the surface, the other is necessarily underwater. Or they join end to end to form a continuous sea serpent that tears through the water, making revolutions of the bowl at breakneck speed.

At its best, this show is a feast for the senses, and a celebration of human physical prowess. At its worst, it takes itself too seriously. There is a lot of pompous nonsense about the twins becoming whole only when they are together, and the strange assertion that we all have a twin somewhere. But just when you are reaching for the sick bag, the twins rescue the show with their exuberance and twinkle.

Booking to 11 February on 0870 060 6637

Next Article