My memories of the Circus as a kid had become hammy clowns, a disingenuous ring master and what looked like quite cruel treatment of animals. Circus 1903 has re-invented the circus, taking it back to its roots and thus re-igniting my love of the circus.
The atmosphere in the theatre was palpable, the theatre was filled with smoke, there was an excitement in the air; you could tell the audience had high expectations and Circus 1903 did not disappoint.
David Williamson was a masterful compère combining humour with magic and glorious audience interaction which had the audience at once rolling in the aisles and then collapsing into tears of joy at his magical and comical skill.
Florian Blummell AKA The Cycling Cyclone from Germany, was a highlight for me, not only due to his skill but his talent on the bicycle was as much technical as it was poetic, in light of the awful events in Berlin on Monday night there was an added stoic feeling to the performance that felt as though Florian was wanting to unite us all with his art and love of his birthright, it was truly magical.
There are 13 acts in all, each as unique and gravity defying as the next so I’ll give you my 4 highlights of the night (including my 7 year olds favourite of the night)
The Elastic Dislocationist was outstanding, any contortion act can make the audience gasp and groan in imagined pain with what they do but Senayet Assefa Amara is the best I have ever seen, what she can do with her body defies logic and biology and you just can’t look away.
Les Incredibles were my favourite of the night, mastering the Russian Cradle, these two effortless fly through the air with audible shrieks from the crowd (myself included) with near misses and incredible strength it’s mesmerising to watch (admittedly I watched it all through my hands clenched tight to my face)
One of the wonders of acrobats is the danger present at any time and none know this more than Fratelli Rossi, brothers Alejandro and Ricardo. Masters of “foot juggling” this is where one brother lies with his legs in the air and literally juggles his brother with this feet, the theatre went deathly silent as Ricardo fell doing a triple somersault and missed his landing. His brother immediately checking him over it was to raucous applause and a collectively sigh of relief, as Ricardo stood up and shook it off only to execute one the finest pieces of foot juggling I have ever seen. I lost count on the 22nd somersault, when at gaining speed he nailed his final landing to an almost standing ovation.
My sons highlight was the highwire; there is no safety net and there were bicycles and splits on the 30 foot high wire; it was mind boggling. My only criticism is they made it look so easy it actually looked easy, which of course we all know it isn’t.
In the 21st Century it’s now considered cruel to use animals in the circus but that’s a challenge the company have willingly taken on as what is a circus without animals? With stunning animal puppetry design from Significant Object we have Queenie a giant African elephant and her delightful Karanga who entertain masterfully with faultless technical ability of the puppeteers you forget they are inside them.
What Circus 1903 shows us is that we don’t need fancy gadgets and technical aids to make magic in the theatre. With acts from the Ukraine to Germany, France to Russia, Mexico to Ethiopia it is clear that art transcends conflicting cultures and countries, it unities us in the love of magic, acrobatics and the collective want to live in a world full of art, love, laughter, tears and joy.
Showmanship is the heartbeat of any great Circus. That is a sentiment agreed but the 2,000 strong audience who leapt to their feet in the loudest standing ovation I have ever taken part in.
Katie Gompertz – Theatre Now & Talking Arts
The producers of the world’s biggest magic show, The Illusionists have teamed up with the award winning puppeteers from War Horse to present a thrilling turn of the century circus spectacular.