Review: Circus 1903, Royal Festival Hall - joyous, thrilling and fun
Circus 1903 is a joyous show it brings wonder, thrills and humour back to the circus.
Circus 1903 is a journey back in time to the huge travelling shows of early 20th century America which unearths new levels of thrills and entertainment.
Who would have thought that good old-fashioned knife throwing acts, balancing, acrobatics and contortionists could be quite as breathtaking to watch?
Ringmaster Willie Whipsnade is the guiding force, he introduces the acts with a classic flourish, filling interludes with magic, humour and audience interaction which mostly involves children who have volunteered to go up on stage and help.
These segments are important moments of bubbling frivolity and laughter, a touch of lightness before the next thrills begin.
And the acts are genuinely thrilling, a human menagerie of talents that in going back to the basics somehow elevate the sense of jeopardy for the stunts - and elevates the sense of wonder and awe.
The pace varies from fun and thrilling teeterboard, simply wow artistic cycling and graceful balletic aerial work to the downright nail-biting knife throwing acts, precarious balancing and human trapeze.
There were moments when I found myself looking from behind my hands and when the audience collectively held its breath.
Where Circus 1903 is contemporary is in its use of puppets to replace the live animals that would have been a big part of the show in the early 20th century.
Think of War Horse style puppetry, the sort of puppetry that has you quickly forgetting there is human involvement and can elicit a collective 'awww' from the audience.
Willie introduces some 'cuddlier' versions of animals for his tricks and jokes which just add to the humour.
The second half doesn't quite match the first half for thrills but it didn't matter as audience lept to their feet as the performers took their bow.
Circus 1903 is a joyous show, it brings wonder, thrills and humour back to the circus. It makes for a great alternative to pantomime for a family show this Christmas and I'm giving it ⭐️ ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
It's two hours and 20 minutes long including an interval and is at the Royal Festival Hall until January 5.