Review - Circus 1903, The Lowry

Circus 1903
Photo: Manuel Harlan

Circus 1903 Photo: Manuel Harlan - Credit: Archant

Circus 1903 is a visual feast packed with thrills, laughter and fun

David Williamson, ringmaster Willy Whipsnade, in Circus 1903
Photo: Manuel Harlan

David Williamson, ringmaster Willy Whipsnade, in Circus 1903 Photo: Manuel Harlan - Credit: Archant

It's been a long time since I last visited the circus - and I had forgotten just how magical the experience can be. Circus 1903 takes the very, very best of circus fun and gives it a polish, making it the best circus experience - for adults and children alike - I can imagine.

Circus 1903 is set as if in the golden age of circus, when huge travelling shows criss-crossed America, performers and animals of every kind arriving in town to set up, do two shows and vanish on the next train out. The occasion is led by Ringmaster Willy Whipsnade, whose marvellous sense of comedy timing, smart one-liners and sheer brilliance with children gives the show its warm heart.

Act after act appears to dazzle the audience - nothing new, nothing that will come a surprise to an audience familiar with the acts that now grace our screens on Britain's Got Talent, for example - but each one is beautifully done; slick, graceful, a demonstration of power and control and hours and hours of practice, until it's seamlessly smooth. And made me, for one, realise that I need to do a lot more pilates. Oh, the core strength of these people!

One aspect that you won't be familiar with however - and which charms every child in the audience - is the arrival of the elephants. Not the real thing, of course, but marvellous puppets, in the style of War Horse, that stroll and sway just like the real thing.

The Daring Desafios, Circus 1903
Photo: Manuel Harlan

The Daring Desafios, Circus 1903 Photo: Manuel Harlan - Credit: Archant

Perhaps the very best bit, for me at least, as a parent, was the interaction with the children in the audience. Ringmaster Willy - played by magician David Williamson - brings small children onto the stage at various times in the show, when he performs magic tricks with great style and panache and marvellous humour. The kids are thrilled and entranced in equal measure - and no doubt their parents filled with tearful pride. The closing act, where he invites four little ones on stage and manages to take them through a quite complex trick, is just magical.

Williamson is perfectly cast in this role, as he knits the whole show together seemingly effortlessly.

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It's a true circus in almost every respect, with acts from all over the world - from France to the Ukraine - showing us their stuff and, as you sit in the comfort of a well-padded theatre seat, with your car nowhere near the usual muddy field, you will enjoy every single second of it.

Circus 1903 plays at The Lowry till 24th November 2019