Royal Festival Hall, London
The third European season of Circus 1903 opened its Golden Age of Circus show on London’s South Bank with a spectacular array of acts. Managed throughout by Ringmaster Willy Whipsnade (David Williamson) who is also an award-winning magician, the evening wonderfully engages with both kids and adults alike.
With laughs and cheerfulness, the show depicts an early USA as spectacular high-flying acrobatics from the Daring Desafios represent the gargantuan task of transforming the country from an untamed wilderness to the New World with vast networks of railroads evolving. Cleverly, the act also suggests the wagon shows of the era.
Excellent aerial work continues with acts from both the Flying Fredonis and Les Incredibles. Amid high-flying somersaults the performers are not just beautiful, but romantic, skilful, and melt hearts as they display eye contact, smiles and gentle gestures that demonstrate an incredible mutual trust alongside their strength and skills.
The circus’ performing elephants are brought to life via ingenious puppetry that emanates from creative talents learned at the National Theatre’s War Horse stable. The animals’ detailed designs demonstrate the perfect control and mechanical genius of the skilful puppeteers (three in the larger Queenie and one in the baby Peanut) - somehow even conveying not just movement but emotion, happiness and disappointments as the show goes on.
Circus 1903 isn’t just about the incredible acts, drawn from around the world, it is also inspirational. When Willy asked himself “Why do I love magic?” – he answered touchingly “It is years practice and rehearsing, passed on through generations, hours and hours of time but it will live forever in our memories” – so true.
The second half of the show involved more interactions with children from the audience, dance, acrobatics, finishing with the terrifying Wheel of Death.
Circus 1903 provides a perfectly enjoyable circus experience with its combination of lights, music, staging, sets and highly skilled performers. This is an amazing production with an intimate atmosphere, relaxed setting and a thoroughly family-friendly ambience.
Runs until 2nd January 2022
Photo credit: Dan Tsantilis
Guest reviewer: Qing Miao