Circus 1903 – Birmingham Hippodrome

Director: Neil Dorward

Reviewer: John Kennedy

Circus 1903 celebrates an intoxicatingly dexterous, fin de siecle, imaginarium of itinerant acrobatic eccentrica; a through-the-looking-glass shimmering construct of eye-popping impossibilities conjuring reminiscences of Ray Bradbury’s American mid-west novellas. For most certainly tonight something deliciously well wicked this way comes. Relishing in exotic, alliterative narratives, Ringmaster Willy Whipsnade (David Williamson), part Emcee, part side-show hawker, promises a ‘playground of the imagination’ as he cajoles, teases deftly and beguiles. Picture a top-hatted, avuncular version of The Big Lebowski’s, Sam Elliot – the moustachioed voiced drawl, the louche, pop-gun-slinger panache.

Some 60s flashback grandparents tonight might well be revelling in the dizzy Wurlitzer soundscapes recalling Sergeant Pepper’s For The Benefit Of Mr Kite. Indeed, a splendid time is guaranteed for all. So, ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls! Roll-up, roll-up and take your seats for the mightiest Big-Top bonanza extravaganza to hit The Hippo for 120 years.

Hear the stamp and roar of the animatronic animals, savour the smell of the crowd revelling in awe at derring-do, dare-devilish contortions, cavalcade ring-mastery magic and death-defying, high-wire wizardry. Everything is just utterly top-rate in this Canvas City – they can juggle, trapeze and throw just about anything and anyone about as far as they can go. It’s a jaw-drop, non-stop prodigious programme packed with delectable, delirious talents drawn from the world’s most renowned bespoke artisans of the circus arcana.

The dazzling evening’s enchantment is consumed within a wink of Karanga, the mischievous puppeteer choreographed young elephant’s eye. Aeriel ballets, impossibly gymnastic juggling and ‘the Beethoven of balancing acts’ from The Great Rokardy compete with the physiological phenomena from The Elasticated Dislocationist. A cornucopia of kaleidoscopic sensual seductions is completed with the endearing Prodigious Pachyderm’, Queenie, the unforgettable elephant evolved from War Horse animatronic stage technology.

A pre-show reception saw the formal opening exposition of Rachael Champion’s foyer-suspended sculpture, Tower of Varieties drawing inspiration from Birmingham architecture and personalities.

Runs until: 2 November 2019 and on Tour                                                   Image: Contributed

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The Central team is under the editorship of Selwyn Knight. The Reviews Hub was set up in 2007. Our mission is to provide the most in-depth, nationwide arts coverage online.

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