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Good old-fashioned circus has all the ingredients to get you to the edge of your seat

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For the past few weeks, the Roundhouse in Camden has been hosting CircusFest 2012, a major festival of pioneering circus acts from across the globe.

The Moscow State Circus, meanwhile, has been plying its trade at Ally Pally. It’s a more traditional brand of circus, a classic family show hosted inside a huge tent sitting on a car park.

It may not be glamorous - the big top was surrounded by mud on our rainy-day visit - and they may not be pushing boundaries, but all the key ingredients are there.

The two hour show, titled Babushkin Sekret, is chock full of death-defying feats carried off by highly skilled, immensely strong and impossibly graceful performers. Tight-ropers perform somersaults, trapeze artists majestically swoop above the audience, acrobats dance atop huge poles held aloft on their partner’s head and jugglers, well, juggle. But in such style: pulling off dazzling tricks with robotic accuracy, like juggling machines programmed to have perfect aim and never fumble.

A heart-in-mouth high point saw a man build a tower of chairs, performing one-armed handstands atop the flimsy-looking structure before adding each new storey. I really wanted him to get down.

There was the faintest thread of a story tying the acts together – to do with some jewels hidden in a chair – and some fairly entertaining clowning. But they needn’t have bothered - the astounding acrobatics were more than enough to move us to the edge of our seats.

* The Moscow State Circus performed its Babushkin Sekret show at the Paddock Car Park, Alexandra Park, N22. It is now at Richmond and soon Fulham, visit www.moscowstatecircus.com for more in on the tour.

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