Circus 1903 at the Royal Festival Hall
The circus is in town for the festive season, bringing breathtaking numbers, fun for all the family and a pinch of magic.
The show reimagines the splendour of the golden age of the circus, at the beginning of the 20th century, when the Barnum & Bailey Greatest Show on Earth returned home to the States after a long European tour that mesmerised and captivated the audiences overseas.
A marvellous company of artists, the acts on the stage of the Royal Festival Hall are not connected by any particular theme. The single performances are stripped of intertwining story threads so that we can appreciate the talent on show, without frills or extras. The only link between them is the ringmaster, Willy Whipsnade, a bubbly figure appointed to introductions and comic interludes. The show opens with him and along with some other unexpected protagonists: the children. At intervals – in place of the clown’s intermissions which are normally a staple – the man picks, at random, some of the youngest members of the audience, either for a game or to support him in a comedy sketch. The result, at least on the night this reviewer attended, is both hilarious and cute.
Circus 1903 presents an astonishing array of acts, with mid-air acrobatics being a highlight. Goosebumps rise as the sticks start trembling under the pressure of the body of The Great Rokardy. With measured efforts, the acrobat almost touches the roof with the tips of his feet, balancing on what look like thin pieces of wood piled up. The Remarkable Risleys are naturals at the somersault, executed seamlessly with robust movements. The same pairing of flowing motion and strength is demonstrated in the aerial feats of Les Incredibles. The Flying Fredonis produce choreography characterised by gravity-defying grace, their twirls set against a more romantic and dreamy background. Thanks to their cheerful attitude and sterling agility, The Great Gaston and The Daring Desafios bring a smile of wonder to every face.
All the sequences combine to deliver remarkable entertainment that derives from many years of hard work. One of the most thrilling – and highly anticipated – acts arives on a rolling finale. The Magnificent Marvellos spin (literally) round and round on the wheel of death, inside, outside, through the two circles. It is an adrenaline-filled showstopper, a perfect way to end the night on a very high note.
The appearance of the full company watching their fellow artists performing does not always convince. Overall, the production feels it’s missing an extra kick, but Circus 1903 still doesn’t fail to impress the small and grownup members of the public alike. The exhibition of sheer skill and imagination is outstanding.
Photos: Ambra Vernuccio
Circus 1903 is at the Royal Festival Hall from 19th December until 5th January 2020. For further information or to book visit the theatre’s website here.