Katharine Kavanagh

From a background in devising contemporary theatre, Katharine took her 1st Class Degree from Dartington College of Arts off to explore various forms of theatrical entertainment, with a particular passion for work that acknowledges the audience as an equally present partner. Heck, she likes street theatre, participatory engagement, physical prowess and circus. She runs critical website The Circus Diaries.

Review: Lords Of Strut Late Night TV Talk Show

I realised I must have officially become a fangirl when I found myself inadvertently joining in with Famous Seamus and SeanTastic‘s arm-flinging, hip-grinding introductory catchphrase: ‘Lords – Of -Strut! (Mmmmmmm)’. I don’t often find myself with favourites, but this show at Edinburgh Fringe marks the 4th time I’ve seen the lads perform – which is only once less than I’ve seen the beguiling Camille O’Sullivan, so they must have something pretty special – and not once have I failed to laugh so hard I cry.

A bit of backstory here. Seamus (Cormac Mohally) was a child star, whose dancing made the world have emotions. His younger brother, Sean (Cian Kinsella), dances too, though usually bullied into a supporting role to allow Seamus’ star to shoine. (I’ll keep the typo. It fits the show).

Through character clowning, with the occasional wee bit of circus technique thrown in, the pair drag us into their own personal, hilarious hell, desperately trying to maintain a perfect showbiz front at all times.

The Lords Of Strut began as a street show, and the universal appeal and boundless energy needed for pavement success is also visible across their entertainment empire of online videos, theatre performances and now, ladies and gentleman, their own late night TV talk show, as they continue in their mission to Change the World Through the Power of Dance. Of all their shows, this is the least suitable for a family audience, mind. Unless you want your nippers to see a member of the public fisting the boys’ ma (played by Sean in a full-on lady suit) to try and retrieve her bottle of vodka.

We also see special guests Michael Flatley, Father Billy Nomates, and a rock. Plus the surprise appearance of a fetching bin-bag mankini costume for Seamus. An infomercial does NOT feature ironic juggling (‘There’s no such thing SEAN’); fragments of acro-movement in their choreography look even more precarious than usual in the tiny black box space; there’s some lip-synching to power anthems and we, as the studio audience, get to clap and cheer our way through the beautifully bonkers hour.

Having followed the brothers’ previous work, it’s also fun to see Sean standing up for himself for a change. He’s determined to bring politics into this talk show, and that’s what he does. The connection between terrorism and cats has never been clearer.

The Edinburgh Fringe run is now over, but Seamus and Sean are appearing at Dublin Fringe next month, and regularly tour. Worth tracking down if you notice them around, the Lords of Strut well deserve the celebrity they think they already have.

Late Night TV Talk Show. By Lords of Strut. Assembly Roxy, 2 Roxburgh Place, EH8 9SU. 7pm. Until 28 August. http://lordsofstrut.com



Review – Knightmare Live: The Game Has Changed

Just like the iconic kids’ TV challenge show from the 90’s that lends this event its name, ‘Knightmare Live‘ is an entertaining quest in the company of Treguard, fantasy characters, an evil-but-comfortably-safe-really villain, and some goblins. Unlike the original, the brave challengers who volunteer to don the horned helmet are guided through the adventure by special guest comedians seated around an onstage mic. The frisson of excitement and investment in the quest are still tangible – although, like when watching as a child, that investment can sometimes be in the desire to see things go wrong.

Our guides today are from the legendary Australian comedy band Axis of Awesome and if, like them, you have never heard of the original gameshow before, here’s what to expect. A series of audience members are invited onstage to wear the famous helmet that renders them sightless, then they are directed through a series of challenges to move through rooms in a dungeon and complete a quest that is announced beforehand. There is a high amount of comedy, which comes from the spontaneous audience interactions, improvisation among the regular cast of performers, and the attempts to collectively achieve a ridiculously wonderful goal.

As a child, I remember feeling physical sensations of clenched fists and leaping stomach as I watched my young counterparts on the telly try to escape their doom. The stakes in the Live show are not so high, and this is a clever move. Because, watch the tv version back now, and you’ll notice the low budget props and costumes, the dated CGI graphics, the adult generosity and tongue-in-cheek recognition that this, really, is all rather silly but jolly good fun. And that is exactly what they give us here.

Yet, if you’re lucky enough to be selected as a challenger as I am, that electric physical nervousness will hit again as you try to follow directions in the dark and avoid decapitation, complete puzzles, or win allies. Under that helmet, my face is fixed in a delighted grin throughout, wrapped up in the euphoria of fulfilling a deeply held childhood dream.

And so, knowing how desperately I yearned to play the game as a kid, my heart goes out to all those raising their hands in the audience who never get a chance to walk the dungeon themselves. My begging email in advance paid off this time but, had I gone along on the off-chance, I may have been disappointed again. Not that the rest of the show wasn’t thoroughly entertaining in its own right (and Paul Flannery captures the spirit of Hugo Myatt‘s original Treguard perfectly) but, be aware, we can’t all be the chosen one, so check out their website to apply in advance if getting inside the hat is a make or break issue for you.

My schedule won’t allow me to sit inside the Pleasance every night this month to watch the whole series, with its constantly changing guest guides and revolving roles among the cast. But if I could bundle them all into a live boxset and take them home with me to show my friends, I definitely would. Word is that the show will return again to London, and my eyes will be peeled for when tickets go on sale.

Knightmare Live: The Game Has Changed. Presented by Electric Talent. Pleasance Dome, Potterow, EH8 9AL. Until 28 August, 19:00. http://www.knightmarelive.com


Fings From The Fringe

Well, who doesn’t love an alliterative title? And titles, when it comes to Edinburgh Fringe, can make or break you. Likewise your publicity image. Does it draw people in? What kind of people? And does it accurately represent what you do? Some of the biggest disappointments aren’t because a show is bad, but because it’s not what it promised.

The favourite title I’ve spotted so far this year is the risqué punning of ‘Fingering A Minor On The Piano’, from Adam Kay. That said, I wasn’t completely sure whether this was simply for shock value, or indicated a cleverer show. Until I saw Kay in his other Fringe offering, ‘The Remains of Tom Lehrer’The classic geeky wit and wordplay of Lehrer’s comic songs are equally matched by Kay’s own lyrical contributions and droopy-browed delivery.

Musical numbers are interspersed with biographical detail from Lehrer’s life and a few choice props are flung about. Like the stuffed pigeon sitting sedately atop the glossy black piano, Kay barely moves from his stool; he has no need because it’s the material – including previously unreleased compositions – that’s the star of this show, within Kay’s expertly constructed frame and presentation. The timbre of Kay’s voice may be a little thin when not ripping into the gleeful madness of growls and squeaks that compliments the smooth sociopathic straightness of his speaking voice so well but, when the verbal material is as rich this, that is a negligible note. He teases us with more variations of ‘The Elements’ than I knew existed, and favourites like ‘The Masochism Tango’ are given a 21st Century twist, proving Kay’s own skills as much as his muse’s.

I’m sold on ‘Fingering A Minor’. The best advert for a show is a taste of what that show experience will be like. And the currency of Word-Of-Mouth is, perhaps, worth more at Edinburgh Fringe than anywhere else.

This is one of the themes that arises in the first of Ben Walters‘ Cabaret Chinwag events, now a firm favourite in my Fringe fixtures. Each week he hosts a free (yes, FREE) panel show discussion with some of the most interesting performers from the Ed Fringe cabaret circuit. It’s a brilliant place to familiarise yourself with who’s doing what, and what shows are hot. And it’s been sponsored by Pickering’s Gin, so yes, there are freebies.

IMG_0107Today, guests are Lili La Scala, George and Liv of Bourgeois & Maurice, and Lisa and Kim from the Australian sensation Hot Brown Honey that’s hitting the UK for the first time under the production umbrella of Briefs, while presenting something wholly original. As well as info about their shows and careers, the guests are all prompted to give a little lo-fi taste of their work. ‘If You Don’t Know What To Do With Your Life‘, from Bourgeois & Maurice’s first album becomes a poetry duet; Kim (a.k.a. Busty Beats) from the Hot Brown Honey team raps us their welcome to the hive; Lili La Scala melts the stresses of the Fringe away with her exquisite voice, singing unaccompanied the traditional Scottish ‘Mingulay Boat Song from her show Siren.

There’s mingling time afterwards, to sample more of the Pickering’s Gin offerings if you so desire. Another thread of the panel chat today though, is the function and dangers of alcohol as a prominent presence in the cabaret culture. Sober thoughts on a valuable resource. Just careful not to overdo it, for everyone’s sake.

Fingering A Minor on the Piano. By Adam Kay. Pleasance Courtyard, 60 Pleasance, EH8 9TJ. Until 29 August, 18:40 https://tickets.edfringe.com/whats-on/adam-kay-fingering-a-minor-on-the-piano

The Remains Of Tom Lehrer. By Adam Kay. Gilded Balloon Teviot, Teviot Row House, EH8 9AJ. Until 29 August, 15:45 https://tickets.edfringe.com/whats-on/remains-of-tom-lehrer-performed-by-adam-kay

Cabaret Chinwag. Presented by Ben Walters. Fringe Central, Infirmary Street, EH1 1LZ. 11, 18, 24 August, 14:30 https://tickets.edfringe.com/whats-on/cabaret-chinwag

Another F*cking Variety Show. Presented by Lili La Scala. Pleasance Dome, Potterow, EH8 9AL. Until 28 August, 23:00 https://tickets.edfringe.com/whats-on/lili-la-scala-another-f-cking-variety-show

How to Save the World Without Really Trying. By Bourgeois & Maurice. Underbelly, 66 Cowgate, EH1 1JX. Until 28 August, 21:25 https://tickets.edfringe.com/whats-on/bourgeois-maurice-how-to-save-the-world-without-really-trying

Hot Brown Honey. Presented by Briefs Factory. Assembly Roxy, 2 Roxburgh Place, EH8 9SU. Until 28 August, 20:20 https://tickets.edfringe.com/whats-on/hot-brown-honey

A Day and a Night at Coney Island

Many visitors are attracted to the iconic Coney Island amusement district of New York for its open air rollercoasters, games of chance, or sandy beach and hotdogs. For others though, the main attraction lies in a building on the corner of West 12th Street, transformed from it’s prior life as an army recruitment centre to the Circus Sideshow and museum.

Here, the traditions of sideshow shock entertainment are kept alive for a contemporary audience, passed on from performer to performer as each new wannabe must hone their skills from a master who’s gone before. The walls are decorated with giant murals that put a modern twist into the familiar antique banner aesthetic, and their creator Marie Thomas can sometimes be found offering workshops in the art of banner painting.

The not-for-profit organisation behind the Sideshow is Coney Island USA, whose motto, emblazoned on their website, is ‘Defending the honor of popular American culture.’  Set up by Dick Zigun 36 years ago, they also host magic shows upstairs in the museum every Sunday, produce the annual Mermaid Parade, and arrange other events throughout the year, including running a sideshow school. It’s widely suggested that the neo-burlesque movement can trace its roots back to this revival of Coney Island’s sideshow entertainment.

When the last big touring sideshow closed in the 80s, the performers came here and found a home to pass on their generations old skills. Today, the show is headed up by Alejandro Dubois, the Pain-Proof Puerto Rican, who has been part of the sideshow world for the last 15 years. He is fast talking and charming, grossing us out with his block-head routine one moment, enthralling us with his fire act that gracefully juggles flames across his body and out of his mouth the next.

There is a revolving team of artists who regularly work the sideshow. Zoe Ziegfeld shows off the snake tattoo wrapped round her body while wrapping herself further with a real albino python taller than she is. We see extreme upper limb contortion from Leo The Human Gumby (it’s a classic American cartoon character who’s really bendy – I had to ask!), who manages to find not one, not two, but three different ways of fitting his form through a tennis racket in today’s show.

sideshowThe whole show is introduced on the street with tannoy announcements and the regular live appearance of the grinning Mr Strange to perform a ‘roll up roll up’ style bally (short for ballyhoo). The performers refer to their schedule as ‘The Grind’, as they perform from 1-8pm throughout the day with only 10 minute breaks between rolling shows. What they offer is appropriate for family audiences – I notice it’s the big men who seems the most squeamish, the kids revel in it. Alejandro admits this does limit them in terms of how true they can remain to themselves in performance – ‘sometimes I just want to drop an f-bomb, ya know?’ – but when it comes to the evening shows, anything goes.

Tonight, usual Sideshow team member, Miss Coney Island 2015, Betty Bloomerz, is here with another crew. The Demented Dolls Of Sideshow are in town for the final date of their American tour, with a full-length all-female show featuring six darkly colourful performers and an array of skills that evoke reactions from pleasant cringe all the way to fist-in-mouth whaaaaa?!!

The show has been devised by the troupe in a way that blends their individual acts and allows them to co-exist onstage together in all their beautifully unique styles.  Hosted by the sneering, swigging, glass-swallowing Jenn.O.Cide, there is a loose thread of romance that ties the character performance together. Perky chic French contortionist Anaelle Spaghetti and Dutch diva Princess Tweedle Needle compete for the attentions of She-Man, a lothario drag-king creation from Marte Maritdatter – whose alternative human-pincushion character Princess of Scars turns up late for the party and wins Tweedle Needle with their shared royalty, pinning their bodies together in an elegantly literal interpretation of the Masochism Tango.

sideshow2Fibi Eyewalker is a freakish oddity who brings an absurd extremism to the company. Although the boast about there only being six female sword swallowers in the world is to be taken with a large pinch of salt, having both Eyewalker and Betty Bloomerz here tonight is still rather a coup. The pair have a variety of shaped and sized blades between them, including one with a seriously serated edge, which they move in and out of their gullets with characterful panache.

From gullet to gusset: it’s only fair to mention the most eye-watering display in the show is not the blood that decorates freshly pierced faces, but a suspension of a swinging milk pail from Princess Tweedle Needle’s labial piercings.

The Demented Dolls of Sideshow take classic elements of midway performance and spin them into a fresh and fulfilling freaky evening’s entertainment. Here’s hoping their next tour brings them to Britain!



Circus Treats: What’s On in April

We might as well just go ahead and say it: CircusFest.

The biennial festival of contemporary circus produced by the Roundhouse is back from 4-24th, taking over not just the Camden venue, but also infiltrating other circus theatre hotspots around town.

As part of the festival, Jackson’s Lane are hosting their own production of The Hogwallops (5-10th), plus international imports Scenofrom Agit-Cirk (12-13th), double bill Pinta/WireDo – which features aerial rope acrobatics, Japanese knot-tying kink shibari and tightwire (15-16th) – and last year’s Total Theatre Award winning Smoke & Mirrors, from The Ricochet Project (19-23rd).

The Albany will be home to The Insect Circus from 5-8th (and, although not connected with CircusFest, its also worth mentioning their regular BITES: Remix cabaret of circus collaborations, popping up this month on 15th). Delightful children’s show Bedtime Stories, from Upswing, will be at Hackney Showroom from 9-10th, and artsdepot is the latest stop for godparents of British contemporary circus, Ockham’s Razor, on their national tour of Tipping Point.

Other theatre shows you may spot touring about the country with circus woven into their fabric are the children’s smash Hetty Featherand new hip-hop adaptation of The Jungle Book from Metta Theatre.

Meanwhile, back at the Roundhouse… The headline opener is Finnish Race Horse Company with Super Sunday (4-16th), featuring traditional thrill acts of teeterboard, wheel of death, and a human catapult with ‘trademark black humour’. Sharing top billing on most of the publicity is the premiere of homegrown Total Theatre Award winning Barely Methodical Troupe’s second show Kin (20-24th), which sees the troupe expanded to six. This show is also presented with an opening preview act of Pop: a new circus concept, which will premiere in 2017.

Other offerings include the solo one-to-one trapeze performance Ringside (7-16th), devised by Ellie DuBois and also nominated for a Total Theatre Award at last year’s Edinburgh Fringe. The weekend of 9-10th is programmed with workshops and a new production from the Roundhouse’s Street Circus CollectiveOrbital, and from the 12th-14th each evening is filled with a discussion salon, focusing on issues of gender, collaboration, and class in relation to circus. Jeanne Mordoj returns from France with her solo show about womanhood La Poème (15-16), and multimedia studio MES present a new production about circus mothers in Me, Mother (21-23rd). Throughout the month, Ben Hopper‘s photography exhibition Transfiguration is also available to view. The full programme can be seen here.

Alright, but what if you prefer your circus a little less theatre-y? If dance is your thing, you have two nights to catch new choreographic collaboration Triptyque from Canadian innovators “7 Fingers” (or Les 7 Doigts De La Main, if you’re feeling fancy) at Sadlers Wells (1-2nd). Or for a good old dinner cabaret, why not visit Circus in Covent Garden, who relaunched almost a year ago and now serve cocktails and pan-Asian cuisine along with your circus kicks.

There’s another One Night Only Cabaret presented by Hikapee Circus and Theatre Delicatessen on 21st, where you can get yourself a cabaret goody-bag alongside your ticket!

For the purists, of course, there are the big tops, and Zippos Circus have again launched their season in London. Celebration comes complete with Norman Barrett MBE’s budgerigars, fantastic aerial acts, and a brand new “acrocat” troupe of rescued pussycats. It plays on Blackheath Common till 5th, then Rockwell Park 6-12th, before moving outwards from the M25.

As ever, you can check out the links here for other tenting tops who may pop up in your neck of the woods over the course of the month.

And, as ever, if you know of something we’ve missed, don’t keep it to yourself! Share in the comments below, and hopefully we’ll see you there.

Circus Treats: What’s On in March

The visiting Canadian giants of cirque nouveau may be leaving for another year, with the final show of Amaluna from Cirque Du Soleil on 6th, but the circus party is just beginning. Quite literally in fact, when Nearly There Yet’s family bonanza, The Party, returns to Jackson’s Lane on 5th, the venue where it was first developed two years ago. The show’s small tour will also be visiting other circus-friendly venues, Stratford Circus and the Albany.

Jackson’s Lane also offer us a work-in-progress showing of Inverted‘s new promenade show, Dust (3rd), and two days of These Books Are Made For Walking, by Bikes & Rabbits (22-23rd). Both appeal to the bibliophile in me, as Dust is based on the glorious Erin Morgenstern novel, The Night Circus, and These Books Are Made For Walking takes place in a set almost entirely constructed of books, using the volumes as circus props amid the equilibristics and object manipulation of Alice Allart and Fabrice Domininci.

The Highgate venue are hosting a visit from Circomedia’s first graduating students of their Circus Degree course too, with final showcase That Was Fun on 4th. Way out west in Bristol, Circomedia also have a great programme of shows which, this month, includes the VOLT scratch night on 3rd, and latest solo show from the charmingly cynical juggler Jon Udry – Jon Udry Punches Gravity in the Face – on 11th.

Traveling clockwise around the British coast, the new Pontio Arts Centre in Bangor opens their purpose built, circus-ready, building with a brand new collaboration with NoFit State. The community event, There is A Place, runs on 12-13th. In Blackpool, the Tower Circus launch their Silver Jubilee show on 25th, which is also the start date for Great Yarmouth Hippodrome’s new Pirate themed show.

Back in London, you can catch the latest cross-cultural collaboration from Gandini Juggling who, after their success with the world of classical ballet last year, are now working with English National Opera in Akhnaten at the London Coliseum from 4-18th.

The tenting tours are out in force throughout March, adding to last month’s early starters with shows from Circus Fantasia, Circus Mondao, Circus Wonderland, John Lawson’s Circus, Mr Fips Wonder Circus, Russels International Circus, Santus Circus and Uncle Sam’s American Circus. Dates and venues are often kept under wraps until the week of the show, but we do know that Chaplin’s Circus will be appearing in Richmond Park from 30th until April.

If you spot anything else round your way, give us a holler in the comments, and enjoy the festivities!

Cirque Tsuica and the Art of The Brass Band

We all know London is great for bringing in big performance names and hiding out in tiny corners, but it can be easy to forget that some of the most exciting work is the stuff that tours the regions. Just like Tour de France, Cirque Tsuica begin their UK visit in Yorkshire this weekend, and the closest that their latest series of shows come to the capital is a one night stand in Luton on March 10th.

But if you can track the French circus down on their journey (which also takes in Oxford, Derby, Poole, Sutton, Warwick and Newbury), Opus 7 promises something rarely seen on British stages. As well as being acrobats, the artists are also skilled musicians, and brass instruments feature heavily in the show, injecting the traditional circus energy and playful spirit into a contemporary style performance.

What’s more, the visiting troupe will also be joined by local brass bands, who have been preparing since before Christmas with Cirque Tsuica’s musical director, Camille Secheppet, in workshop rehearsals. Each town will add distinct local flavour to the show, incorporating their own influences within Tsiuca’s own compositions of Balkan brass and American jazz. It’s a sad fact that the British brass band tradition is on the wane, as two of the towns were unable to find any local participants to get involved. This seems like a great way to reinvigorate a fading culture and bring it up to date.

Cirque Tsuica hail from the Cheptel Aleȉkoum collective in the remote French village of St-Agil. Most of the collective met as students at the French national circus school CNAC, and now live, train and work together in a community of around 20 – when they’re not touring the world of course! From one farmhouse with a circus tent out back, the collective have become a real fixture of village life, as now a fifth of the 250 inhabitants have a circus connection.

They’ve been brought to England by the Circus Evolution project, which is an Arts Council-funded initiative managed by Crying Out Loud. Working with nine different venues, the three-year project is dedicated to sharing quality contemporary circus with new audiences across the country.

Community has always been a strong part of circus life, so combining local communities of British towns with members of the Cheptel Aleȉkoum collective is a great way to open up that spirit further. And if you thought acrobatics were impressive on their own, try watching artists flip, dance and tumble whilst playing their musical instruments at the same time!

Opus 7, by Cirque Tsuica. National tour. 26th Feb-15th March. http://cryingoutloud.org/projects/circa-tsuica-opus-7-touring-2016/

Circus Treats: What’s On in February

Turn your back for a second and suddenly there’s circus everywhere. This month sees the first of the tenting companies taking to the fields and towns of the UK, in addition to the ever growing number of theatrical circus shows popping up around the place.

Moscow State Circus lead the charge, opening on 1st, followed by Planet Circus, Gandey’s Thrill Circus and Circus Funtasia on the 12th, Paulos Circus on 13th, Big Kid Circus on 15th, and Circus Zyair on 16th. And that’s just the beginning…

Theatres up and down the country will be visited by circus shows that range in content from traditional thrill acts to contemporary dance infusions, via children’s theatrical spectacle and French brass band joy. Cirque Berserk, the former, is presented by Zippos Circus for the second year running; Joli Vyann‘s new show Imbalance explores digital interactions through acrobatics; Lost in Translation‘s madcap, banana-loving The Hogwallops, produced by Jackson’s Lane, is still on the go; Cirque Tsuica are in the UK for the first time, with the energetic musicality of Opus 7.

Circus Of Horrors are midway through their Shocking All Over The World 21st anniversary tour, and Ockham’s Razor are set to take latest ensemble show Tipping Point out to those who didn’t catch the premiere at London International Mime Festival last month.

The Mime Festival still has a couple of circus tricks up its sleeve before it closes, with French Cie Yoann Bourgeois bringing their suspended, shifting stage to the Barbican with He Who Falls, and Swedish troupe Svalbard presenting the surreal All Genius All Genius at Jackson’s Lane, both from 3-6th.

Jackson’s Lane have a really exciting circus programme this season that, this month, includes the Hangwire showcase of new work on 13th, and two new pieces sprung from the Resolutions residency with The Place. AlulaCyr are three women and three cyr wheels, exploring pack mentality in Hyena (16th), and Le Lien ne Fait pas le Fagot is acrobatic duo Nikki and JD examining what it’s like to consistantly be cast as lovers when in reality JD is in a gay relationship, and Nikki is a 30-something woman searching for Mr Right on Tinder (18th).

In case you’d forgotten that February hides the dreaded Valentine’s Day deep in its midst, don’t worry, Jackson’s Lane also have a circus solution for that, admittedly a little belatedly, with associate artists Silver Lining serving up a Late Valentine circus cabaret on 27th. If you want something closer to the big day itself, try Invisible Circus‘ Valentine Weekender Kabaret Klub in Bristol (12-14th), or Mary Bijou Cabaret and Social Club‘s Bad Romance Social in Cardiff (13th). Then again, you could go for something completely different, and book onto one of CircusMASH special couple’s workshops to try some circus out for yourselves (14th).

Speaking of something different, Wales Millennium Centre has a new production of Shakespeare’s Henry VI that runs from 1-20th and features an all female cast with aerial acrobatics performed in the venue’s roof void.

There’s still more though folks! February half-term is when the annual Showzam festival takes place in Blackpool, where a range of circus, cabaret and street performers from the UK and Europe will be performing from 13-20th.

Finally, one last mention for those of you in London: Paper Doll Militia are performing LoopsEnd as part of VAULT festival, billed as ‘the love child of Tim Burton and Trent Reznor’, and directed by the brilliant Al Seed, from 24-28th.

p.s. Almost forgot to mention Cirque du Soleil! Still in state at Royal Albert Hall with Amaluna till 6th March.

Circus Treats: What’s On in January

The new year’s here (in case you missed that) and, with it, a raft of circus embedded within the London International Mime Festival programme. First up (11-23rd) is the latest show from British pioneers Ockham’s RazorTipping Point, features several performers, an intimate ring, and a rather large pole. No, it’s not that sort of show. (Honestly, can’t take this lot anywhere. Ed).  

Belgian exports come in the form of BabaFish, who showcase the UK premiere of Expiry Date amid a set full of oddball mechanical contraptions (19-23rd), and Alexander Vantournhout and Bauke Lievens‘ minimal self-portrait ANECKXANDER (22-24th).

Dark Circusby Stereoptik, is something a little different – a magical conjuring of a big top universe from visual artists and live electro musicians (26-30th).

Prolific Aussie company Circa present their latest acrobatic spectacle The Return from 27-31st, and the festival continues into the first week of February with further circussy delight. If alternative clowning is your thing, there’s a whole lot of that in the programme as well, including the fabulous Al Seed’s award winning Oog (15-17th).

The other big London news is the annual Cirque Du Soleil residency at the Royal Albert Hall. This year’s show is one of CDS’s newest creations, Amalunaa tribute to the amazing power of women, hitting Britain for the first time on the 16th. It runs through till March, but the particular way CDS price their tickets mean that the prices are likely to hike the longer you leave it.

There are still a few days left to catch the big Christmas shows from Blackpool Tower (until 17th) and Great Yarmouth Hippodrome (until 10th), and theatres around the country will be experiencing visits from touring shows.

Circus of Horrors are midway through their 21st anniversary ‘Shocking All Over The World’ tour of CarnEvil, Cirque Berserk! are launching out of their Winter Wonderland season in Hyde Park into a national tour, and a return of Cirque De Glace sees theatres around the country transformed into ice rinks for Evolution, which promises to be a cross between figure skating and a Cirque Du Soleil style fantasy.

Shows aside, this month also hosts the annual Circus Reunion in Nottingham from 29-30th, and an open roundtable Circus Development Forum at the National Centre.

Believe it or not, next month the tenting season starts again for some of the country’s touring troupes. Until then, take it easy (and, as ever, let us know any events we missed in the comments!).

Circus Reunion 2016

Between the end of the Christmas season and the start of summer, the annual Circus Reunion is a chance for showmen and women to gather under one permanent roof and catch up on the year’s events. We spoke to Frazer Watson, organiser of this year’s bash, to find out more. The conclusion? An event not to be missed!

From 29-30th January, anyone who’s ever been involved in the circus world is invited to the rather lovely Village Hotel for the yearly gathering of circus minded folk. Amongst other activities this year, there are plans for a pyjama party on the Friday evening, and a rather more glam James Bond theme for the Saturday, giving guests a chance to bring out the bling and celebrate in style.

‘Circus Reunions have been taking place for many years’, Frazer explains. ‘They used to be fancy black tie events and balls, attended by celebrities. Times have changed a bit, but we have entertainment, dinner, dancing, and familiar faces.’

This is Frazer’s second year organising the event. He ran away to the circus as a youngster and then, with his newly developed juggling skills, ran away from the circus again, to the life of a year-round holiday camp entertainer. Yet circus has always been a home to him, and he’s maintained close ties ever since, running the box-office for the relaunch of Billy Smart’s Circus with his wife Sharon, travelling to visit friends and family in shows, and taking on the role of Secretary to the ACP (Association of Circus Proprietors).

reunion deskI asked what he enjoyed best about the reunions, and for Frazer, the biggest kick comes from seeing the newer and older generations bonding together and sharing stories and experiences. ‘A lot of circus performers now aren’t from the same traditional background,’ he reminds us. ‘They come up from youth circuses or from other forms of entertainment. It’s good to see the interactions. Circus is changing, but it’s important that the past isn’t just swept under the carpet.’

Among those attending this year will be a contingent from Newcastle based Circus Central, who are beginning work on a heritage project to trace circus activity during World War 1, following on from the success of their previous excavation of circus history in the North East. Other stalls will no doubt include sponsors Terry Bunton Fine Arts (trapeze artist turned circus painter!), and Circus Stardust entertainment agency.

With a nod and a wink, we’re also expecting Paul Daniels and Debbie McGee, and a very special chap called Neil Baldwin, who was the subject of BAFTA-winning BBC drama Marvellous. Which is exactly what I’ll be watching this evening.

Tickets are available via the Facebook group for either the Friday, Saturday, or full weekend, and a special hotel discount is available for those who wish to book an overnight stay and boogey into the wee hours. It’ll be my first time, so I look forward to seeing some of you at the end of the month!

Circus Reunion 2016. Village Hotel, Nottingham, NG9 6DL. 29-30th Jan. £40 Fri/£50 Sat/£75 Wkend/£20 Child https://www.facebook.com/groups/1427146457525574/?fref=ts