P.T. Barnum obviously had Circus 1903 in mind when he said that “the noblest art is that of making others happy” – for this Circus brings happiness to all in the audience. This is a show for everyone; small, tall, young, old, bearded or just peculiar, this will entertain you throughout.
In the age of digital entertainment this show avoids it all; it’s pure and innocent circus acts from the 1900s bringing good old fashioned family entertainment to the stage.
From the minute Ringmaster Willy Whipsnade welcomes the audience, you are transported back over a Century, to the arrival of the circus in town.
David Williamson as the Ringmaster is charming, engaging, and downright crafty. He builds such a rapport with the audience that he has them believing everything and anything. His craft of magic cleverly interspersed throughout the performance helps transition between acts, and breaks down the audience/actor wall. His persona, along with amazingly period-esque costumes designs (Angela Aaron), simplistic yet robust circus set designs (Todd Edward Ivins) and atmospheric lighting (Paul Smith) bring a real circus feel and ambience to proceedings.
From high flying somersaults to mind-boggling contortion, from high balancing to high speed juggling these acts are all talented, skilled performers from around the world, each with their own mesmerising display and a lifetime of training behind them. Every act is supported by excellent orchestrations, composed and arranged by Evan Jolly and recorded for the show by the City of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra. Each scene transitions effortlessly as the full cast double as extras, swiftly relocating circus props as though part of their daily circus duties.
All the acts deserve the adulation of the crowd, who have been whipped into sounding more like a football mob than a theatre audience, the continuous applause and cheers as they defy the odds makes you really believe you’re sat ringside.
Singling out one act, The Flying Fredonis are a treat to behold, their balletic grace and poise whilst performing startling aerial feats was breathe taking. Sometimes you wish the acts could go on all night.
Oh, and no animals were harmed in the making of this show either. Significant Object who designed and created the elephants, all had experience working on Warhorse, they integrate human and puppet perfectly. Full credit to the puppeteers for bringing life and character to these animals.
Circus 1903 is at The Lowry until 24 November, and is at The Southbank Centre, Royal Festival Hall 19 December – 5 January 2020. Book tickets here