REVIEW: Circus 1903, Royal Festival Hall

This is a circus show which is as thrilling as it is beautiful to watch. 

(c)Manuel Harlan.

Thanks to films such as Water for Elephants and more recently The Greatest Showman, there is an irresistible appeal for the traditional circuses from around the 1900’s. Now thanks to Circus 1903, there is a great opportunity to revisit the golden age of circus.

As thrilling as it is beautiful to watch, Neil Dorward’s slickly choreographed production really brings to life some of the types of fantastic acts that audiences would have witnessed originally – from the intensely gripping (watch from behind your hands) knife throwing, to the extraordinary contortion act this is a show that has it all.

But what I love the most about the circus is its unpredictability, no-one including the performers are entirely sure how the act is going to come off on the night – adding extra suspense to the performance and this is something that Circus 1903 plays on consistently. In particular, watching the Sensational Sozonov’s bold balancing act and seeing the level of difficulty rising creates a lovely buzz among the audience of all ages who watch absolutely enthralled.

Led by the warm and charismatic performance from David Williamson as Ringmaster Willy Whipsnade, everything in Circus 1903 is exhilarating and mesmerising to watch – a constant buzz of activity that can leave the audience feeling breathless.

Other highlights of this exciting show includes Lucky Moon’s exquisite aerial ballet that shows great grace and poise,the thrill of watching A Flight of Knives performed by Deadly Games and the the Training of Dangerous Animals segment adding a nice audience interaction segment between young audience members and Willy Whipsnade.

Throughout the production, there is a great energy, keeping the audience thoroughly involved with what is happening in front of them. This is evident during acts such as The Great Gaston’s juggling act and The Flying Finns during their Catapulting Chaos act that needs to do a little bit extra to keep energy levels high given the (well to the audience anyway) simplicity of the act. Yet even these acts have heaps of personality and enthusiasm that keeps the audience guessing at what to expect next.

Everything from the Todd Ivin’s traditional set design, Angela Aaron’s costume designs and Evan Jolly’s lively music effectively sweeps the audience back to 1903 so much so that the only thing that disappoints is the fact it is not being performed in a big top.

Overall, if you want your children to experience all the thrills of the circus this is definitely the one to take them to as it has plenty to offer for those of all ages. A thrilling and mesmerising experience that you never want to end.

By Emma Clarendon

Circus 903 continues to play at the Royal Festival Hall.Book your tickets here.

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

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