If you were hanging around Zoo Southside back in 2010 you may have found yourself lured into an anarchic circus of drunken stunts and acrobatic carousing, made even merrier by the free beer given out to the audience. Cirk La Putyka (Czech for "pub") most definitely made a boozy splash with their first Fringe outing, (also named La Putyka), picking up a slew of four-star reviews and a Total Theatre Award nomination. Returning for their third Edinburgh adventure, the troupe are now looking back in time for circus inspiration with new piece Batacchio, Italian for 'slapstick'. The show takes its influences from 19th-century comedies and extravaganzas, and promises to strip back circus paraphernalia and gadgetry to techniques and disciplines honed in the golden age of the big top.
"A lot of what is done in the show is resorting to stage magic of the 19th century," says director Maksim Komaro. "All the tricks viewers will see are created only by the abilities of the performers. We don't use any projection or other technical support to create the magic and illusion. The performers use their own abilities. Sometimes it's surprising, sometimes mysterious but mostly funny."
Batacchio marks Finnish director Komaro’s third collaboration with Cirk La Putyka, a relationship which began in 2012 with Slapstick Sonata, another piece marrying elegance and farce. A veteran of the circus world, Komaro delved into his personal archives of circus ephemera to research Batacchio. But he isn’t afraid to admit that a good deal of it, in the spirit of conjuring, is made up. "For a long time I have collected and studied the literature of circus, cabaret and theatre of bygone times. But without film material or personal experiences, what one can have at best is a personal fantasy of how everything was."
Victoriana has proved a rich mine for modern circuses in recent years but one senses that in the hands of La Putyka, there will be something different to twirling moustaches and fringed corsets. The company’s artistic director Rostislav Novák Jr., while enigmatic on the details, says Batacchio is not only about mimicking the past. "We look with our 21st-century eyes to the times of old cabarets full of circus artists and illusion. It is a celebration of happiness and the contemporary genre."