London, Things to do, West End Shows

Circus 1903: A Show Review

Billed as The Greatest Showman meeting Warhorse, I honestly did not know what to expect when I booked tickets to see Circus 1903. The lively adverts I had seen for it on billboards around London in the run up to Christmas, had only encouraged to me see the show, after initially hearing about it on the Children In Need telethon back in November 2019.

Showing at The Southbank Centre and running into the New Year, the turn of the century entertainment surpassed all of my expectations. The daredevil stunts and wild acrobatics were very impressive and spine chillingly good in places. With new acts including something branded as The Brazilian Wheel of Death, the show managed to put audiences completely on edge.

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The show included life sized elephants, stunningly operated by puppeteers, similar to how the animals move around the stage in The Lion King. Creating elephants in this way allowed for the magic of these gigantic mammals to be brought back into the ring, without the cruel presence of the real, live animals.

Offering a lot of talent from all over the world and an engaging, American ringmaster that frequented the stage throughout the show, bringing up young children onto the stage and getting them to take part in simple tricks. This is usually something that feels quite pantomime to me, and I often can’t stand how cheesy this sort of audience engagement can be, but Circus 1903 did it in a way which was slightly sarcastic. As it was not overly forced or fake I think it made for a better comic effect.

With contortionists, high wire performers, jugglers, balancing acts, dancers, acrobats and much more, the show had a great selection of old-world style acoustics that worked very well together to transport audiences back to the golden age of the circus.

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I had anticipated the show to be a bit cringe, which it managed to avoid. I had thought it would be over the top, which it was not. I had prepared myself for mediocre talent in an age when the circus, is seldom ‘The Greatest Show on Earth’ anymore, but it surpassed all expectations I had.

Even though the show was only on for an extremely limited run over the festive period, it is definitely something I will be keeping an eye open for if it should return to London in the future.

Have you been to the circus recently? Does Circus 1903 sound like something you would like to see? Let me know in the comments below.

22 thoughts on “Circus 1903: A Show Review”

  1. This sounds amazing. I haven’t been to a circus since my kids were small. It had artists, dogs and ponies and a visiting las vegas magician. His magic was great, but his show was very much las vegas and very much not good for a traveling circus. He was as you say, over the top, too much, and totally missed the mark.

    Thanks for sharing 🙂

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    1. Oh no, it’s not great when they don’t adapt these shows when they take them on the road! Definitely keep an eye out for this one – I highly recommend it, like I said it was better than I anticipated it! It was so long ago since I went to a circus there were still real life tigers!! 😲😂

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  2. I loved War Horse so much so anything that uses the same kind of theatricality would be a winner for me. It’s a few years since I was last at a circus, we took Flora to one and it was, as you say, cringeworthy, even for her! This sounds amazing though, such a shame I won’t be up in London to see it. So pleased it surpassed your expectations! Lisa x

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    1. I’m glad that you know what I mean when I refer to it as a bit cringe – I didn’t want to come off snobby or anything! I think it is definitely worth keep an eye out if they are touring or you see them in your local area as it is something quite different ♥ 🎪

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  3. This sounds so interesting! I would have expected the same thing as you, that it would be a little bit too cringe and over the top so to hear it wasn’t like that is amazing. Definitely something I’d be curious to see for myself x

    Sophie

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  4. I was brought up on Billy Smarts circus in the Tower Blackpool…… every year it was a ritual with my sister and parents so circus holds good memories for me. Glad you enjoyed it.
    🤡🤠🧞‍♀️🧞‍♂️🤴

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    1. Awww 💖 That is such a lovely story and a great memory to have of your childhood. I think as a child I only went to the circus once and there was a tiger there 🐅!

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  5. It is so cool that you got to see a performance live! I have still yet to see one. It is so cool that they have all sorts of displays – I can’t imagine the practice it takes to be that talented. Glad you enjoyed it overall!

    Nancy ♥ exquisitely.me

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    1. Oh Christmas Eve is a lovely time to see a show for sure! I love to see shows pretty often – I’m always on the lookout for deals though because shows, especially theatre ones are so damn expensive! 😲

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  6. This sounds like such an intriguing show. I especially like the sound of the animal puppets, like the Lion King productions. I’ve not been to the circus since I was very little – I don’t remember it – but there is a photo of my cousin and I sat on one of the elephants after the show.

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    1. Oh wow – that sounds like such a throwback! I only remember the tiger > I think it is making us both seem quite old at the fact there was still live animals allowed at the circus when we went! I think this puppetry is a great, cruelty free alternative to such a creative idea! ♥

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    1. Me too – it was a great surprise! Minus the whistling child behind us, it was a great way to spend the afternoon. I’d definitely consider going again, if we are ever allowed out of our houses again! x

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