Last Updated on January 19, 2020
Festive entertainment for all the family at Circus 1903
The festive season is in full swing and what better way to enjoy it than with an outing to the circus on London’s vibrant Southbank.
Circus 1903 is back at the Royal Festival Hall after last years hugely successful run; this is traditional Circus entertainment with a difference, no clowns or live animals (phew!), the show where ‘The Greatest Showman meets Warhorse’. It returns with Queenie and Peanut, undoubtedly the most charming puppet elephants on any stage around the world.
At its helm is the magnificent Ringmaster Willy Whipsnade (David Williamson). I saw last year’s production and I’m really looking forward to seeing a wealth of new acts who will be joining the Circus 1903 family adventure this time around, including a daring duo aerial act ‘The Flying Fredonis’ performed by Russian artists Dasha Shelest and Vadym Pankevych, Cuban hand balancer ‘The Great Rokardy’(Rokardy Rodriguez) and the furious flexible feats of Russian Rolling Ball Hula Hoopist ‘Mademoiselle Natalia’ (Natalia Leontieva).
However the real star of this production is my eye is the fabulous David Williamson; he’s seasoned, highly accomplished and very funny indeed. With a successful series of magic shows under his belt, he is able to cleverly outwit the audience and keep the show on the road.
In a recent interview David Williamson talked about his career as a Ringmaster:
I’ve been a magician all my life, so when to producers of Circus 1903 invited me to take on the role of Ringmaster of their new theatrical Circus, I jumped at the chance. The producers were looking for a character that could narrate the story as well as provide a sense of fun and excitement and a little clowning and magic.
Willy Whipsnade is basically a broadly drawn iconic Ringmaster. I based him on some of my favorites… W.C. Fields (he once played a Circus owner named Whipsnade), Frank Morgan as Professor Marvel (the slightly seedy but lovable Wizard Of Oz) and John Cleese as the hilarious Basil Fawlty.
Have you always wanted to ‘run away with the circus’
Actually, yes. When I was a teenager a small family circus came to my town one summer. I loved the charm of it and became friendly with the family. When they saw that I was a magician, they invited me to join them. My mother, even though she was supportive of my magic, said no! She wanted me to finish school.
So, look at me now, Mom. It took 40 years, but I made it!
Why is your role so integral to the show?
Because it’s a show about a traditional Circus coming to town in 1903, my character acts as narrator during the first act before the tent is raised and then becomes the Ringmaster in the second act when the audience is transported to underneath the Big Top. I’m the only cast member who speaks, so my role is also to introduce acts and, sometimes fill time when something goes wrong.
Even though this is a theatrical production, we are presenting actual circus acts with all of the inherent danger. And mistakes and spills can happen. I need to be prepared to keep the show moving forward no matter what.
What can audiences expect from Circus 1903?
I don’t like to give away too much, but I’ll say that audiences can expect to be magically transported to the year 1903, the Golden Age of Circus. With all of the traditional atmosphere and romantic memories of a gentler time. They can expect to be awed by actual human being flying through the air, providing thrills no Marvel movie can match. They may not be prepared for the emotional response to our majestic elephants or our poetic aerialists.
They can expect to laugh and cheer and leave the venue the same way all of our audiences do, Jubilant!
Circus 1903 is touring to three venues this year! Are you looking forward to taking Circus 1903 on tour?
Very much. This show deserves to be seen by as many families as possible. By taking the show on the road, we honour the tradition of the travelling circus while bringing old fashioned entertainment to modern audiences all over the UK. Nothing fills my heart like looking out over the footlights and seeing entire families laughing and thrilling together.
The show also boasts sensational puppetry from the award-winning team behind War Horse, which puts elephants back in the ring as never seen before, alongside a huge cast of the most unique, jaw-dropping and dangerous acts from all four corners of the globe.
Circus 1903 will amaze, captivate, and transport audiences of all ages to the mesmerising Golden Age of the circus.
This show is one for all the family; a moment of magic, a real spectacle and a proper night out!
Catch it – if you can!
19 December 2019 – 5 Jan 2020
Royal Festival Hall
London SE1 8XX
020 3879 9555