The Golden Age of Circus:
Contemporary Circus is all the rage lately; Barnum & Bailey’s film ‘The Greatest Showman’ is an international hit, and the rise once again of circus arts is very apparent. Over the past few years, I have found myself thrilling to a whole new the world of entertainment – one which revels in nail-biting, jaw-dropping feats of physical strength, dedication, agility, endurance and sheer talent, with a wonderful dose of humour thrown in.
Circus 1903 – The Golden Age of Circus has found its perfect home at the Royal Festival Hall on London’s Southbank.
This is traditional Circus entertainment for all the family, but without clowns or live animals (phew!). Instead, here in Neil Dorward’s production, there are two beautifully executed and rather regal life-size elephants, especially created by the ‘War Horse” puppeteer team. There’s also plenty of audience participation at the expense of a handful of unwitting children, who need to be able to handle award-winning Ringmaster William Winterbottom Whipsnade’s (David Williamson) acerbic humour. He really is the star of this production, seasoned and 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.
The stage, hung with a stripy tent backdrop and set with a circus caravan, invites us into the arena, where the host of highly acclaimed circus performers from all around the world creates a playground for our imaginations, turning the ordinary into the fantastical.
Opening onto a lively scene, mood evoking Balkan Folk music sets the pace for The Flying Finns – three acrobats catapulting precariously through the air off a seesaw… And Next! The Sensational Sozonovs’ terrifying ‘Rola Bola’ balancing act, which must take years to perfect.
Serge Huercio ‘The Cycling Cyclone’ is a gifted acrobat who performs feats of incredible dexterity on his bicycle.
Juggler Francois Borie was nothing short of brilliant. A flawless act had the audience gasping with amazement, as an extraordinary waterfall of batons flowed under the spell of his quite supernatural hand-eye coordination.
Suspended high above, aerialist Lucky Moon oozes elegance and precision, whilst Serpentine Sinuousness contorts her agile body into remarkable poses one never thought possible. Fratelli Rossi demonstrated a thrilling foot-juggling act, and The Los Lopez family risked life and limb on the high wire.
But the most unsettling act – the one I genuinely found very uncomfortable watching – was knife-throwing team ‘Deadly Games’, who toured with the renowned Moscow Circus and also competed in 2106 in America’s Got Talent. True to their name it was utterly terrifying, and how we didn’t witness a complete disaster I’ll never know.
This show is one for the whole family; a moment of magic, a real spectacle and a proper night out!
Catch it – if you can!
Until January 5
Royal Festival Hall
London SE1 8XX