Review: Circus 1903 – The Golden Age of Circus presented by BASE Entertainment Asia
A throwback to simpler times executed with heart.
There are moments we go through life smothered by how fast it goes and the constant need to do more in less time. Just for once, take a step back and imagine going back to a simpler time, where trains ran on coal and technology had not yet existed. Imagine, if you will, you’re in a small town and the circus has just rolled in, the townsfolk are beside themselves with excitement, and the whole family is willing to drop everything to catch these talents for a night.
That’s precisely the setting of Circus 1903: The Golden Age of Circus. The latest circus to roll into town is a fun throwback to the early 1900s, and they’ve dedicated themselves to fully immersing the audience into this anachronistic experience, from dressing themselves in period costumes to even having a traditional ringmaster lead the entire show. Part of the reason why the show works is its attempt to draw audiences into its world from conception to execution, where in Act 1, we see the entire troupe working together to hammer in the big top’s pegs into the ground, working hard to get the show up and ready, while David Williamson, as the ringmaster, cuts an imposing figure with his height and engages the spectators by inviting audience members up on stage to participate in certain acts, transforming the atmosphere of the theatre into that of an actual big top.
Circus 1903 has gathered a veritable team of talented circus performers from all around the world to make up their circus family. We began with see saw act by acrobats Arthur Ivankovich, Ilya Kotenyov and AJ Saltalamacchia, as they showcased finesse, agility, passion and commitment to the act, nailing their timing perfectly with each midair twist and twirl. This was followed up by an equally impressive act by Florian Blummel, who showcased power and elegance in his unique bicycle act, making us feel the wonder of flight as he effortlessly balanced himself, almost as if he were weightless and actually flying.
One thing about old circuses would be the inclusion of a sideshow, showcasing wonders of the world like a bearded lady and a strongman. Here, contortionist Senayet Assefa Amare wowed us with her superhuman flexibility, and the entire setup felt believable, showing the amount of commitment to research that has been done make this a reality.
One of the biggest draws to Circus 1903 though, would have to be the majestic life-sized elephant puppets, made by the same team who created the puppets for War Horse. When mother elephant Queenie made her appearance onstage, we were stunned by how lifelike she looked, and our hearts were warmed by baby Peanut stepping out onstage. As the entire cast comes together to teach Peanut a new trick, he even gives the crowd a little surprise! It’s a believable, heartwarming scene, and an impressive theatrical feat for the four puppeteers inside of Queenie and the one inside Peanut. Working together with the cast, Act 1 ends with the big top finally ready for showtime, raising the tentage and truly immersing us in their vintage world.
Act 2 maintained the energy created in Act 1, and began with much fanfare as acrobats Johan Lopez, Jonatan Lopez and Mariaiose Pontigo took to the tightrope and left us gritting our teeth with the death defying tricks they performed, wary that they might fall at any moment and keeping us thrilled and on our toes at all times. Creative director Neil Dorward has also incorporated some clever scene change methods between acts, distracting audiences from the transitions by employing cast members to perform traditional circus acts at the front of the stage, such as Mikhail Sozonov’s Rola Bola act, as he stacked various objects on each other while maintaining a delicate sense of balance, keeping all our attention on the act and allowing for smooth scene transitions.
Juggler Roberto Carlos impressed us with the high speed at which he juggled a number of pins, each one moving so fast that as they caught the light, they seemed like mere rays moving in midair. And to top it all off, this was coupled with other surprise tricks he had up his sleeve, from a boomerang hat that comes back when he throws it, to ping pong balls he managed to juggle with his mouth.
The magnificent TT Boys Tamrat and Tomas showed off some extraordinary talent in their act, as they displayed foot juggling feats in tandem with each other, well synchronised and with pitch perfect timing as they vaulted and somersaulted through the air. One can practically imagine passers by and audiences in 1903 gasping with wonder and awe with each toss, throw and catch.
Finally, the night ended with the graceful Marcella Collares De Queiroz and Olavo Rocha Muniz, as they performed their heartstopping Russian Cradle act, moving smoothly and elegantly through the air, making each turn and spin look effortless, and finishing off with a triumphant pose at the end, leaving the audience wild with applause.
If Circus 1903 is your first time experiencing a circus in the flesh, it’s an absolute delight to behold, bringing audiences a throwback to the classic circuses of olde and highlighting how much camaraderie and sense of family was abound in these troupes. With well choreographed sequences, orchestral music that perfectly complements the grandeur of the circus and a complete commitment to the old timey aesthetic that brings it all together, Circus 1903 truly does capture and celebrate the ‘golden age of circus’, and makes for a great night out for the whole family.
Want to catch Queenie, Peanut and the rest of the Circus 1903 troupe at Mastercard Theatres? We’re giving away 2 pairs of Cat B tickets to catch Circus 1903 on a weekday! All you have to do is:
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Winners will be informed via Facebook.
Photo Credit: Circus 1903
Performance attended on 19/4/18
Circus 1903 plays at Mastercard Theatres till 29th April 2018. Tickets available from SISTIC