Circus 1903 returns to London at its new home this festive season at Eventim Apollo with its supreme skill and showmanship to transport the audiences to the ‘Golden Age of circus’. With an effortless flow, a troupe of global artists present dare-devil performances, sometimes dazzling the audience, sometimes keeping them at the edge of their seats but always entertained and mesmerised. This is interspersed with Ringmaster Willy Whipsnade’s (performed by David Williamson) acerbic yet charming exchange with young people from the audience. While they are mesmerised by the ringmaster’s hands-on magic and spectacle, the elder audience is thoroughly amused.
The show format is traditional and simple directed by Neil Dorward and highlights the talent, rigour, and finesse of diverse artists with unimaginable skills. After a grand welcome by the Ringmaster, the first act brings together the ensemble in a choreographic sequence with performers Danel Aguilar, Luke Chadwick-Jones, Ronan Jenkinson and Mads Ludvigsen flying on the teeterboard. Keniel Rodriguez Mesa’s astonishes with his balancing act as Samantha Rox keeps rising the stakes on the Rola Bola. David Schnabel manipulates his bicycle in all possible ways with ease showcasing fine balance, control and flexibility. The elastic dislocationist Senayet Asefa Amare spellbounds the audience probably making them twist and turn a little as I did. The mood and pace of the show change with softer music and lights to match the flair of aerialist Sabrina Aganier. What seems a tad out of place is the elephant pupperty. While the skill of puppeteers Mikey Brett, James Donovan, Amelie Leroy, Nyron Levy, Jamie Morgan, and Tom Morgan is unmatched, the cohesion in and placement of its narrative seems superficially arranged.
The Ringmaster reminds the audience of the circus’ core aim which is to highlight the talent and practice of its performers. A truly engaging master of ceremonies, he is spontaneous, witty, and gently authoritative.
The second half displays soaring feats on the Russian bar by Oleksii Balakhchy, Hryhorii Koptiev and Tymofii Chemko followed by a play of strength and balance by Valeri Lyubchev Tsvetkov and Yani Kostov Stoyanov and some delightful juggling at the speed of light by Noel Aguilar. The Ringmaster once again takes centre stage with a hilarious skit with young people. The final act by Temesegene Gebereynsaa and Mikiale Gebrekidan adds a new flavour to the boldness of this company with blind fold jumping and rapid wheeling using the body. What makes the circus so special is the audience’s constant encouragement and cheer to support anything that may have not landed right for the performers which was rarely the case with this performance.
The music composed and directed by Evan Jolly with high drum rolls accurately supports the feats building tension at the right moments and guiding the performers to a fitting finale. The lights designed by Paul Smith are dramatic and grand to match the grandeur on stage. The scenic design of Todd Edwards uplifts the production by giving the Victorian circus experience to the audience.
Though the circus remained true to its original intent, I missed a sense of meaning and relevance to this day and age. Perhaps a narrative that connects the audience to the circus at a level beyond skill. Nevertheless, it is dare-devil, delightful, and magical and absolutely recommended for young audiences with a lot in store for adults as well! Circus 1903 runs at Hammersmith Eventim Apollo till 30th December 2022. https://circus1903.com/
Reviewer: Khushboo Shah
Reviewed: 15th December 2022
North West End UK Rating: ★★★★