Although you'll not see any lions being 'tamed' in massive stripy tents, London's modern circus scene is far more jaw-dropping than the suspicious magicians and caged animals of old. Have your breath taken away with your pick from our list of London circus shows.
Circus shows in London
Pity the performers in Cirque du Soleil. When they’re not doing jaw-droppingly impressive things on stage, the minutiae of ordinary life – like popping to the shops for milk, say – must be incredibly boring.Because, make no mistake, this show from the Canada-originating, world-conquering circus troupe is a spectacular piece of escapism. After premiering in Montreal in 2012, it’s at the Royal Albert Hall to mark the company’s twentieth anniversary at the venue.Loosely based on Shakespeare’s ‘The Tempest’, with shades of Mozart’s ‘The Magic Flute’, the show follows the trials of Miranda – daughter of the sorceress Prospero – and the shipwrecked Romeo, as they fall in love on the island of Amaluna. The multi-level set, with its massive, peacock feather-like fronds, has epic scale.At this point, there’s an expected level of slick professionalism in Cirque du Soleil’s work – and, leaving aside the slightly cheesy rock opera stylings, ‘Amaluna’ feels like a Hollywood blockbuster, with a budget to match. And yet this doesn’t take away from the thrill, thanks to its well-chosen acts and deft tonal changes.The supernatural is apt when the skill and physical prowess of the performers seems magical. But it’s not just about stunning, large-scale acrobatics performed by people dressed as animals. The proper hook to ‘Amaluna’ is its confidence in occasionally silencing the roaring guitars of the band – in letting stillness in.As Miranda, Iuliia Mykhailova is mesmerising in an act involvingRead more
‘Barbu’ literally means ‘bearded’ in French. It’s a playful title for a show packed with follicularly bountiful circus performers, and serves as a punchline more than once. From Quebec, Cirque Alfonse are one of several troupes to have emerged from the contemporary circus powerhouse that is Canada. There’s a fairground feel to their latest show, a nice fit with the London Wonderground’s mirrored Spiegeltent where it’s playing. It charts circus’s evolution in Montreal from the end of the nineteenth century up to today. However, this theme feels almost like a restriction at times – the opening salvo of acrobatics lack a sense of purpose. Displays on rollerskates and hat-juggling are nice touches, but in the first half there’s often a sense of box-ticking – of watching a history lesson in a ring. And when putting a twist on an old favourite is the default for contemporary circus, this envelope needs more pushing. It’s not until ‘Barbu’ embraces cabaret that the show gains momentum and starts to twinkle. While it’d probably be rarer, these days, to see a circus act where the performers actually kept their kit on, here, it unleashes a playfully naughty personality. Whether it’s a ball balanced between a pair of strapping chests or a cask of booze spraying everywhere from on top of a human pyramid, it’s brash, crass and guiltily fun. It just takes longer than it should to get there.Read more
Don’t be fooled: while there is some circus in here, ‘Blanc de Blanc’ is more burlesque than big top. This show, with its spray of nudity, revels in the single entrende, the filthiness of a popping Champagne cork. With choreography by Kevin Maher, who worked on Madonna’s Rebel Heart tour, it’s slickly done. The look is art deco caught in a hotel bedroom with Baz Luhrmann. There are some eye-popping bits, not least the shameless publicity grab of briefly lifting a ban on photos to invite us to hashtag selfies with the performers. The sheer cheekiness of it all, the larger-than-life trashiness of guys in gimp suits and pimped up nakedness backed by a mash-up of musical styles, is often fun – the show blowing us a kiss while dancing skilfully on the edge of awfulness and arching an eyebrow at ‘taste’. At its best, Scott Maidment’s production is a clever kaleidoscope of high and low. It’s the show’s maitre d’, Monsieur Romeo, who starts in a dinner suit, ending up in his pants and splashing us from a Jacuzzi. It’s performer Emma Maye Gibson’s firework lit from a butt-plug. But, sometimes, stripping is just stripping and ‘Blanc de Blanc’s bubble pops when shock value is its only currency, when it’s just about baying at boobs. And the weightless splash of the pool-party ending is a damp conclusion to its more imaginative moments. Nonetheless, the show offers a rollicking ride that’ll undoubtedly pull in the punters. And the Hippodrome’s cabaret theatre, right next to the caverRead more
I’m lost in the jungle. Metta Theatre have shifted Rudyard Kipling’s classic children’s story onto the streets of London. Baloo is now a beat-boxing bin man, Bagheera a graffiti artist, Shere Khan a street gangster, and jungle-lad Mowgli – a feisty woman and a mean gymnast. They may or may not still be animals; it’s quite hard to tell. There’s such imagination in here, and heaps of brilliant circus and street dancing skills – but it’s also pretty baffling and perhaps a little too edgy (Sheere Khan mimics shooting poor Mowgli at one point) for a family crowd. Director Poppy Burton-Morgan is trying to push circus into bold new areas – but she hasn’t quite made the leap. Most of the skills on display – trapeze work, pole dancing and beat-boxing – are essentially solo disciplines. That makes it hard for the cast to gel, despite some inspired choreography from ZooNation’s Kendra J Horsburgh. The styles also clash. Stefan Puxon is a sparky beat boxer but phrases like – ‘To you I’m invisible, a figure derisible’ – fly right over the children’s heads. There’s a mesmerizing pole-dancing routine from Nathalie Alison as sinister snake Kaa – but it doesn’t help the story. After Mowgli (Natalie Nicole James) flees the jungle, she tries to bond with her mother. Endless dance sequences – such as ballroom dancing and ballet - are disrupted as Mowgli struggles to adapt. It’s a neat idea but - once again - goes on for much too long. The curtain-call is the best ‘scene’ of the night. FreedRead more
Circus company Upswing stage this lovely-sounding show for children and families which tucks up audiences into beds around the stage. The piece uses 3D animation, music and circus to tell the tale of the little girl whose bedtime story is interrupted by her mum's work. Ages 5-plus.Read more