What a spectacular spectacular! Circus 1903 is the right mix of fast-paced stunts and captivating slower acts. The gentleman next to me hit the nail on the head when he said ‘Well, that was good old family-friendly fun, wasn’t it?’, when the show ended.

Credit: Nick Rutter

But let’s go back to the beginning of the evening. The Eventim Apollo is an impressive venue itself. Upon entering, you get a glimpse of the slightly lit stage with a single circus wagon and a lot of things which one associates with the circus. Closer to the beginning of the show, we are greeted by a well-dressed Ringmaster Willy Whipsnade (David Williamson) in a bowler hat with the most amazing moustache and card tricks. I already felt as though we were in for a treat.

The opening act was an incredibly well choreographed dance-like performance, which told the story of setting up the circus on the morning of a performance. We are five minutes in, and I can’t help but notice how great the work of lighting designer Paul Smith supports the creation of the storyline, and illusion of witnessing a morning in 1903. Immediately I feel the excitement and cannot wait for what is coming next. The first acts are more or less dressed in regular clothes that you might have in mind when thinking about people in the early 1900s. Costume designer Angela Aaron has a great eye for detail. In the first Act, there are no big sparkles or extravagant feathers. Just artists who passionately displayed their artform. Some of them, I later learn, are 8th generation circus performers (or even more!). Lives dedicated to their art. I can’t count how many times I held my breath and crossed my fingers. That’s how thrilling this show was!

I want to tell you all about every single performer, because they did such an amazing job. But I don’t want to spoil your fun and surprise when you go and see the show yourself. Let me just say that in the first Act, I got goosebumps when aerial artist Lucky Moon performed her wonderful Aerial Ballet. This was followed by world-class puppeteers, which were just as goose-bump inducing! The first act was full of marvels!

Credit: Nick Rutter

After a short interval, the Big Top was pulled up and the artists welcomed us, in all the glittering and colourful costumes one expects when thinking of the circus. Ringmaster Willy Whipsnade changed his bowler hat to a proper top hat, and I was silently singing ‘This Is The Greatest Show’ whilst trying to decide where to look first. There is so much going on on stage, in a very positive way. The second Act keeps up the fast pace, and features some rather risky stunts, which have you peering through your fingers. My initial thought was correct – this entire show is a treat! The way the artists have command over their bodies while bending over backwards, balancing on a small, and very flexible gymnast bar which was placed on the shoulders of two men (all whilst wearing a waistcoat and perfectly starched white shirt) left me astonished. I loved how these thrilling acts are paired with more soothing, but no less interesting, performances like The Great Gaston (Noel Aguilar), my new favourite juggler.

Circus 1903 is very well curated and wonderfully pulled together by the ringmaster. It has wonderful lighting design, great costumes, and musical director Evan Jolly creates a cohesive sound that took me back to my childhood, by invoking childlike wonder as I sat watching this great spectacle. As the ringmaster pointed out several times throughout the show: The greatest thing about the circus is that when you strip back all the light and the glitter and the music, the magic still remains through the passion of the artists for their art. And Circus 1903 did a great job conveying just that.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

{🎟 AD – PR invite – Tickets were gifted in exchange for an honest review}

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