Dance: Lifting the lid on the big top

When I was a child, circuses involved unamusing men with a lipstick problem, elephant dung and Davina Smart hanging from a trapeze upside- down the better to display her orthodontist's expertise. I wanted to go home. The only other memory I have of the entire ghastly exercise is a photograph of a small child in a little tweed coat and an angora bonnet being assaulted by a handful of organ-grinder's monkeys wearing hand-knitted trouser-suits.

Anyway. Devotees of the form will know that circus has come a long way since then. First the unedifying spectacle of elephants being made to stand on coffee tables disappeared. Suddenly ``circus skills'' became hip and happening and crept onto the fringe circuit. Soon no shopping centre in the land was complete without a small group of fire- eating unicyclists.

By the early Eighties, when Punk had gone global, the circus lost its "U" certificate. Instead, dreadlocked, tattooed, multiply-pierced Frenchmen carved Volkswagens in half with chainsaws, the spectacle ringed artistically with a wall of flame. More family friendly and more profitable were outfits like Cirque du Soleil, who packed vast arenas for their high-gloss mix of clowning and tumbling presented by an international squad of squillions of circus specialists.

Que-Cir-Que want to get away from all that. They have scaled down the whole spectacle to three performers (Hyacinthe Reisch, Emmanuelle Jacqueline and Jean-Paul Lefeuvre) in a tent. Instead of the hard rock of Archaos or the Euro-anthems of Cirque du Soleil, they use the sort of music that would grace a cool bachelor pad: Miles Davis, Janis Joplin and a spot of tribal drumming. The result is intimate and minimalist and the show has been an international hit. Advance publicity suggests Samuel Beckett with a trapeze - which should suit Islington down to the ground.

Highbury Fields, N5 (0171-288 6700) to 5 Jul

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