The circus has rapidly become a dated form of entertainment. Audiences no longer want to see animals being mistreated in a big top. Reality television and the news is where we get to sit and jeer at what we see.
But with Britain’s Got Talent still going strong after 13 years, there clearly is a strong appetite for good, old fashioned variety. The producers of Circus 1903 take you back in time to a life before mobile phones – so put them away – as you witness the magic and spectacle of the circus minus the bored looking animals.
Ringmaster Willy Whipsnade (played with panache and a wonderful sense of humour by David Williamson) acts as a greatest showman, performing magic tricks and becoming a child handler, when little tots are called upon to take part in some of the weird and wonderful acts. Watching him pull children along by their hoodies as they giggle along is really refreshing in a world dominated by antiseptic wipes and health and safety, and the kids love it.
If you like juggling, acrobats, aerial displays and contortionists, this show has it all. And unlike the glossy and popular Cirque Du Soleil shows, Circus 1903 dispenses with corny Eat, Pray, Love philosophy and cheesy Europop, preferring instead to focus on the acts in the hope of making your jaw drop, which the show manages to do on many occasions.
Senayet Asefa Amare, The Elastic Dislocationist, strikes a mighty pose and contorts her body into such amazing shapes, you are almost tempted to view her upside down to make sense of what you are seeing. Double jointed and flexible, she transforms before your very eyes and at one point resembles a crab scurrying across a beach. The effect is dazzling.
Daria Shelest and Vadym Pankevych, The Flying Fredonis, perform in such a high-flying way that it defies gravity. Likewise, The Daring Desafios (a trio of Brazilian teeterboard daredevils João Guilherme de Lima Siqueira, Luan de Souza Vieira and Leonardo Louzada de Freitas) make your head spin. They bounce so high they almost join Lionel Ritchie, dancing on the ceiling.
As if all this is not enough, there’s juggler Great Gaston, a brilliant spin on the strongest man in the world, and two remarkably life-like elephants – Queenie and Peanut. These two extraordinary creatures have a terrific team of people behind them, including puppeteers and designers, and remind you of the majesty of the technical marvels on display in the fantastic show War Horse.
There is the odd bit of filler so that the sets can change and new performers can come on and do their thing. And the sections involving members of the audience may drag on a bit too long for some. But seeing a child in awe of a lifesize puppet elephant and jumping in fright because they think a racoon is being propelled their way, is the stuff that dreams are made of. No puppets or ankle biters were hurt during this live show, by the way.
In a world where everything feels a bit like a bearpit at the moment, Circus 1903 offers you a chance to go back in time and see something eye-popping and mind-boggling that does not involve celebs eating insects or two politicians scoring points off each other in a boring debate.
This beautiful and breathtaking show offers you the perfect escape from all of that and is a must-see.
Circus 1903 is at The Lowry until 24th November