Circus Showdown

Time Out picks up some big top tips ahead of the first Circus Showdown

  • Circus Showdown

    Kalki the Hula Girl shows us what it was to be flexible... (image © Zoe Hunn)

  • Ladies and gentlemen, children of all ages: roll up, roll up for a candy-coloured banquet to feast on with your disbelieving eyes! Marvel at magnificent magicians, enthralling aerialists and let the powers of the circus awaken your senses!

    You can forget the top hat and and alliteration-ridden monologue this Thursday: Circus Showdown is not your typical big top experience. For one, the compere (cutting-edge clown Chris Lynam) will more likely wear nothing at all with a firecracker fizzing out of his rear and secondly, this isn’t a happy-clappy sawdust-and-hotdogs event. It’s a showdown, only with hula hoops not pistols.

    Dubbed the ‘UK’s first annual circus cabaret competition’, the performers will battle it out with better moves than ever before. But rather than being a freaky ‘Britain’s Got Talent’, the audience gets to vote along with the expert panel for the most entertaining live act of the evening. It’s scorecards at dawn, people.

    ‘It’s a serious competition but the aim is to bring everyone from the circus world together and provide them with a wider platform,’ enthuses organiser Kristin Magnuson. ‘London has all these great performers who do a lot on the cabaret scene but they never really get to work together and in such a grand venue.’ But like most ‘circus’ events in London these days, it isn’t very traditional.

    Eight vastly different performers, from contortionists to tightropewalkers, take the stage. Will you root for Bruce Airhead and his giant red balloon comedy act or perhaps the Gandini Jugglers? Maybe illusionists Norvil and Josephine will wow with a magic show where the sawn-in-half sidekick gets her own back. We’ve got our pennies on Kalki Hula Girl – the cute cheerleader turned gymnastic-tastic hula queen with abs of steel and the aerialist acts, ranging from the hip hop spinning of UpSwing Aerial to the ethereal hovering of The Wrong Size troupe.

    There’s all this and more: bookending the competition are performances from Time Out favourite, the neo-burlesque luminary Empress Stah and kitschy dancing ensemble Divine Company. On Thursday, Empress Stah is throwing on her trapeze-artist guise and performing her unmissable signature piece, Swinging From The Chandelier.

    Stah aside, you won’t find any burlesque here. ‘The burlesque scene is fantastic but it’s not very inclusive,’ says Magnuson. ‘We really want the general public who aren’t privy to the circus scene to come. Next time we’ll have the show on a weekend so that lots of kids can come too.’

    It’s the corporate and family-friendly answer to the ‘new wave’ of circus, which kicked off with the Roundhouse’s ‘Circus Front’ season in July (incidentally, its producer Leila Jones is on the judging panel). Will it shape up to be the circus freak’s answer to the Oscars by next year? We’re just wondering what will be in the goody bags…

    The Circus Showdown takes place on Sept 27 at Hackney Empire, E8.

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