There are circus performances, and then there are circus performances. Circus 1903, with a very limited run at the Sydney Opera House, is a visual feast, dazzling audiences and leaving jaws on the floor with serious talent. This show has aerialists, contortionists, cyclists, jugglers, strongmen, clowns, and everything in between.
Circus 1903, which toured across the USA and UK before landing back in Oz, is a very family-friendly production. The ringmaster, David Williamson, is at the helm and constantly invites the little humans on stage. Comedian and magician David Williamson is excellent as the master of ceremonies, ensuring that audiences of all ages enjoy a little circus magic (and plenty of giggles). He is commanding yet calming and works well on his feet, especially when things go unexpectedly, as they inevitably do when you are working with children.
Ringmaster Willy introduces the acts, some of which were so unbelievable to witness that it was hard to watch. One of these was contortionist Mekdes Kebede, The Elastic Dislocationist (Ethiopia). The way she positioned and held her body had people gasping. Her strength and balance are out of this world. And yet, following her came the strongmen, Yani Stoyanov and Valeri Tsvetkov, Les Incredibles (Bulgaria), who pushed their bodies to the limits, holding and balancing each other in graceful yet powerful manoeuvres.
And the list could go on and on, with aerial artist Elena Suarez Pariente, Lucky Moon (Spain). Pariente is suspended by her hair (yes, you read that correctly) and performs beautiful aerial work, absolutely defying gravity. Another unique treat is Mohammed Ibrahim and Hamza Abdo as The Remarkable Risleys (Ethiopia), who perform more ancient circus acts that just aren’t seen in modern circus shows.
Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, there are absolutely no animals in the show. What is offered instead is the team behind War Horse (Significant Object), delivering some incredible puppetry in the form of an elephant and its calf. Referred to as Queenie and Peanut, these enormous puppets that take over the Concert Hall stage are brought to life by puppeteers Chris Milford, James Donovan Smith, Mikey Brett, and Nyron Levy. They are stunning and just as impressive as the real thing.
Circus 1903 is entertaining and unique as well as being completely traditional and nostalgic. A truly winning combination.
FOUR AND A HALF STARS (OUT OF FIVE)
Circus 1903 is playing in the Concert Hall at the Sydney Opera House until 29 December. Tickets and more information can be found HERE
It will then move to the Arts Centre Melbourne’s State Theatre from 4 – 14 January 2024 – tickets HERE.
The reviewer attended on opening night on 21 December 2023.