Slightly Fat Features

Rating ***
Reviewed by Alex Foott

Performance date – Weds 14th Aug 2013

Family friendly variety shows are slowly but surely creeping back into favour with the British public. Shouldering aside the tiresome reality shows and tedious talent competitions that we have learnt to endure, Slightly Fat Features presents us with a refreshing celebration of circus skills and comedy. While these men are capable of performing impressive feats of concentration and balance, their overriding talent lies in their innate likeability. They are, by no means, the most spectacular circus troupe this side of the millennium but that is not to say they haven’t created a surprisingly enjoyable show, bursting with charming originality.

Slightly Fat Features offers a sumptuous array of vaudevillian performances with each of the group’s members highly skilled in various disciplines. Individually they boast a remarkable history of street performing, cabaret and opera and it is precisely that diversity that makes this circus so interesting. The majority of the clowning is provided by harebrained Herbie Treehead and Jon Hicks whose deadpan expressions elicit thundering storms of laughter. Gareth Jones executes Houdini-inspired escape acts while Robert Lee and Matt Barnard create swells of wondrous music that will have you bouncing in your seat. The master of ceremonies comes in the ebullient form of Goronwy Thom, whose jolly babyface and sonorous voice entreat us to sit back and relax. The seven men of the company careen around the stage with all the affability of a band of tipsy dads at a family event. They are united in their efforts to put the audience at ease and understand that not everyone is comfortable with the traditionally immersive nature of the circus. Unlike other cabaret performances, Slightly Fat Features does not ridicule the audience. Instead, the performers cleverly aim their jests at one another and permit us to simply watch the folly onstage.

Amid the deluge of farcical comedy, there comes a truly touching moment toward the end of the performance. Treehead suddenly delivers a solo song on the mandolin that encourages us to appreciate the small things in life. Despite the audience’s previous reluctance to participate, this song is so endearing that everyone is on their feet, singing at the top of their voices and clapping enthusiastically. If there was ever a show that so successfully translated the simple joy of entertainment for entertainment’s sake, it is this one. A brilliant way to spend an evening with family and friends.