A new circus competition kicks off this month and we were there for the first of four heats.

Up, up and away: Circus Maximus has started with some exciting fresh talent.

Up, up and away: Circus Maximus has started with some exciting fresh talent.

Spread over four heats and a final, each held over a number of nights, Circus Maximus has begun in earnest at The Udderbelly on London’s Southbank. The large upside-down purple cow is the perfect setting for these weird and wonderful acts to take to the stage and compete in the UK’s first ever circus competition.

Each heat sees between four and six acts battle it out for the audience vote, culminating in a nightly winner. The victors from each heat, plus a wild card selected by a judging panel, will come together in the finals running between 28 May and 1 June from which an overall winner will be chosen.

With a prize of generous prize of £5,000 and a show created in collaboration with Udderbelly Productions and Circus Space, the competition has attracted many of the best and brightest circus talent from around the UK.

The first heat saw a wide variety of disciplines and performance style. Sam Goodburn displayed some proficient juggling and unicycle skills, slightly spoilt by a few falters that ruined the flow. Sylvia Pavone set the bar high with a hula hoop routine had it all: style, musicality, tricks and dazzling movement. Jonathan Finch produced a slick, engaging and polished hand balance act, displaying maximum flexibility. His movement is clean, without a single falter and obviously very well rehearsed.

Alcina Mendes’s comic routine sees her take on the role of Maria The Cleaner, working comedy into her static trapeze act. Tricks are worked into the set as the accidental skills of an uptight cleaner. Funny as it is, it takes a while to get going. Gemma Creasey presents an impressive aerial hoop routine full of variety, using the hoop in a variety of traditional tricks and unique ways. She works around and manipulates the hanging ropes and ends with a drop finale which draws gasps from the audience.

Sylvia Pavone deservedly took the audience prize at the end of the night. For those who want to see whether Pavone progressed to the final or to see the competition she is up against, Circus Maximus heats run throughout May. The final shows will take place between 28 May and 1 June.

Circus Maximus. Produced by Udderbelly Productions and Circus Space. The Udderbelly, London, W1T 3DN. 7th-19th May, finals 28th May to 1st June. Heats £15, finals £17.50. https://www.underbelly.co.uk/circusmaximus 


Circus Space’s recent degree show featured many of the circus stars of the future.

We spoke to juggler Matthew Green and trapeze artist Thomas Ball, two of the next generation of big top stars.