We chatted to David about the return of Circus 1903 to the Royal Festival Hall this Christmas.
How does it feel to be bringing Circus 1903 back to London? It feels wonderful. There is no place on earth like London during the holidays. It’s a magical time and our show seems to be a perfect fit for this time and place. Performers live for a live audience and I know all of my fellow artists from the circus can’t wait to get back in the spotlight. Many of our artists are from third and fourth generation circus families. Performing is in their DNA. The gasps, cheers, and laughter from a live audience are a powerful tonic.
What do you enjoy the most about being part of this show? The entire experience is a heightened one. Being part of a large production is thrilling, both onstage and backstage. There is as much choreography required behind the scenes as out front on the stage. We have so many professionals and specialists pulling together to make the show happen from lighting, to costumes, and props and specialist circus riggers and sound design. Being part of team like that who all are working together to create thrilling and inspiring moments for the audience is wonderful. Also, not having come from the Circus world, I feel truly privileged to be able to present these incredible artists every night. These folks are cut from a different cloth. Remarkably talented, they are hard workers who instantly make you feel part of their family.
How did you end up in the world of circus? The producers of Circus 1903 also produce a touring magic show called The Illusionists. I was part of that production during several tours around the world. I suppose they thought I would look good in a top hat and moustache. I love it because this show plays to my strengths: I can talk loudly and be silly.
Why do you think people are still so fascinated by the circus? Our show is basically a love letter to the traditional traveling circus during its Golden Age. At the turn of the century the Circus was often the most exciting thing to happen to most towns. Circus day was a holiday! Schools and factories closed and the entire town would often come down to the train yard to see the great spectacle unfold. Imagine the Oscars, the super bowl (in America) and a rock concert all rolled into one. Dozens of train cars filled with exotic animals and circus stars cris-crossed the country each season. The railroads made it possible to bring fantastical entertainment to the masses decades before radio and television.
So we take the audience back to a simpler time when extraordinary humans would display other worldly strength and skill. But also it’s communal, when we opened in 2017 at the Sydney Opera House I was watching a family a few rows back from the stage. Children, parents and grandparents all laughing and thrilling together. In an age when everyone has their own separate screens to feed them their entertainment, it’s good to share an old fashioned communal experience. That’s what our show is about and that’s what the holidays are about.
What do you love the most about the circus? Even though ours is heightened by the theatre arts, there’s really no fourth wall. We are present with the audience. Real things are happening for real people with real danger and humour. It’s an authentic experience. I love that the circus puts human potential on display. It’s about what’s possible, it’s hopeful.
By Emma Clarendon
Circus 1903 will run at the Royal Festival Hall from the 16th December until the 2nd January 2022. For tickets visit: https://www.southbankcentre.co.uk/whats-on/performance-dance/circus-1903?eventId=876841