Reviewed by Alex Wilde
Come one, come all! The Circus has rolled into town and gee-whizz what a wondrous evening!
Last night, my family and I attended the opening show of the spectacular ‘Circus 1903’ at Birmingham Hippodrome. This sensational pageant is the main attraction to celebrate the theatre’s 120th Birthday, which has its origins routed in the razzle-dazzle of the hippodrome.
Charming Ringmaster Willy Whipsnade, played by award-winning magician David Williamson, arrived before the cavalcade; weaving his magic and stoking excitement amongst the packed audience. Full of humour and glee, Willy transported us back in time to a golden age as the stage behind him filled with roustabouts and performers. The travelling ensemble began at once to transform the arena as they would have when visiting a new town for the day in the early 1900s.
The bustling of the burly workers blended with the band in a perfectly choreographed display, drawing us into the marvellous world. A talented trio of teeterboard daredevils were the first of many jaw-dropping acts to come. We marvelled as they catapulted themselves (untethered – like so many of the artists!) centre stage to stratospheric heights. This was a fine display of carefully crafted controlled chaos which set expectations soaring.
The entertainment was relentless – The Sensational Sozonov balanced precariously atop cups and canes with a delightful disregard for gravity; Serpentine Sinousness, the Elastic Dislocationist, had us twisting uncomfortably in our seats as she contorted her body gracefully and inexplicably into hitherto unseen positions – her talent and beauty was hypnotic. The Great Rokardy goaded the audience into pushing him further in a magnificent display of acrobatics and physical strength as he hand-balanced precariously in the rafters. Duo Dasha and Vadym, The Flying Fredonis, pulled us closer in emotively artistic story telling using aerial silks, their aerial allure was matched only by their strength.
Magical-mirth and humorous audience involved skits and side shows were peppered between the acts – replacing our gasps of astonishment with rumbling laughter. As the end of the first half approached, powerful pachyderms were needed to raise the Big Top. Enter elephants Queenie and her calf Peanut. The majesty and humility of these circus staples was brought to life by an amazing team of puppeteers working in heartfelt tune with the wider ensemble. The Big Top had risen along with the audience: fantastical highs of rapturous applause and anticipation for further spectacle filled the air!
The twenty minute intermission was too long! We were jubilant to return to the Big Top, assured that the continuing extravaganza would not disappoint. And hot diggity, how right we were! The procession of awe included Maria of Les Incredible flung into a dizzying and heart-stopping cycle of somersaults and acrobatics. Rhythmically inimitable, Mademoiselle Natalia performed a mesmerising display of hula-hoops whilst balancing upon her prize ball. In the next act, the hand was quicker than the eye as the fast and furious Gaston captivated us with his outlandish juggling. His flawless control of an absurd number of clubs was a sight to behold.
What came next was a riotous rumpus in ‘The Training of Wild Animals’ involving the shortest of dangerous beasts. Mr Whipsnade, I am resting my bruised ribs from laughter! The penultimate act was the Remarkable Risleys, circus brothers who quite literally juggled each other in unfathomable feats of split-second timing, skill and dexterity. Eye-popping bravado!
The entire company joined the stage for the finale and will forever be synonymous with skill, passion and dedication in my mind. It’s no exaggeration to say that the car journey home was buzzing!
Roll up! Roll up! For an unrivalled assemblage of international talent to thrill and enthral the whole family, I can recommend no better wonderment that Circus 1903! An astounding and sensational Five Stars!
Tickets are available from £15.50 until Saturday 2nd November. Plus, there are Birthday Circus themed events taking place on Saturday 26th October and throughout half-term. Find out more at www.birminghamhippodrome.com or visit the Box Office.
Tickets cost from £15.50 (booking fees may apply).
Circus 1903 – The Golden Age of Circus is at the Birmingham Hippodrome from 25 October to 2 November 2019, for more information or to book tickets visit www.birminghamhippodrome.com or call the box office on 0844 338 5000.
Birmingham Hippodrome, Hurst St, Southside, Birmingham, B5 4TB | 0844 338 5000