The Lowry, Salford – until Sunday 24 November 2019
Reviewed by Angharad Crabtree
Circus 1903 gives a unique perspective of how it would have felt to watch an American circus over 100 years ago. This was done with the help of an amazing amalgamation of set, costumes, lighting, music and the raw talent of the performers. From the very beginning, the set and costumes made the audience feel fully immersed in the early 20th century, with the simplicity of the circus props somewhat juxtaposing the incredible acts that are being displayed. In addition, the clever use of dramatic lighting and music heightened the exciting anticipation of the audience. Both were used to cleverly reach a crescendo at just the appropriate times, which gave the audience direction in their applause and allowed the show to flow just as it would have in the real environment.
Despite the fantastic theatrical tools in play, the main treasure of this performance was the artists themselves. The ringmaster (David Williamson) seamlessly integrated humour into his navigation of the play, becoming part of the entertainment himself and providing extra delight with audience interaction. The most moving performance however, had to be the Flying Fredonis (Daria Shelest and Vadym Pankevych), who not only displayed immense talent and coordination, but paired their enchanting routine with beautiful choreography and a musical accompaniment to match. Similar demonstrations of incredible acrobatic skill were that of Natalia Leontieva (a hula hooping phenomenon), Les Incredibles (gravity-defying acrobat pair), The Remarkable Risleys (Fearless foot jugglers), Rokardy Rodriguez (strong man extraordinaire), the Sensational Sozonov (a pirouetting phenomenon) and The Daring Desafios (the energetic stuntmen).
In addition, it was great to see some more traditional circus acts had not been forgotten, with the performances from Senayet Asefa Amare (an astonishing contortionist), Francois Borie (an incredibly high speed juggler) and last but not least, the amazing elephant puppeteers, who somehow managed to give the elephants personalities and provoke both empathy and adoration from the audience. This combination of wonders made an all-round excellent production for all the family to enjoy.