Photo – Jason Lau and Arts Centre Melbourne 2024

With so much noise, content and screens to distract ourselves with it’s almost impossible to imagine a non-digital era. A time where we weren’t all constantly plugged into our devices, always online balancing work emails, social media accounts and life admin.

It is with great pleasure that Circus 1903 has rolled into town to disrupt the digital age with an entirely analogue tale featuring death defying stunts, impossible flexibility and cheesy humour to delight audiences of all ages.

At the helm of the show is ringmaster David Williamson, a gifted MC able to read the room and pivot with such ease you’d never guess you’d been misdirected. It’s a simple story woven through two acts that feature trapeze artists, acrobats, jugglers, strong men and so much more.

Starting in the dusty showgrounds of a 1903 era circus tent, the performers go through the ropes of rehearsal impressing and terrifying the audience with the teeterboard stunts that have acrobats Oskar Norin, Karl Wiberg and Anton Persson flying metres into the air with ease and agility. We’re treated to a “bicycle ballet” by David Schnabel, followed by Mekdes Kebede, a contortionist unlike any I’ve ever seen.

Breaking all the rules, Circus 1903 has no problem working with children and animals (in all fairness the animals are puppets created by the designers of War Horse). Elephants Queenie, and her calf Peanut are a show stealing duo puppeteered by Mikey Brett, James Donovan Smith, Amelie Leroy, Nyron Levy, Chris Milford and Will Palmer. The artists who puppeteer these creatures have mastered what it is to behave like an elephant with every step, sway and tumble. They are beautiful, enigmatic creatures so realistic you want to go up and pat them.

Act two is more incredible feats from the artists with consistent gasps from the audience. Williamson narrates, moving the plot along and providing a little bit of magic of his own. It’s perfectly paced and often interactive with several lucky children invited on stage to participate in the show (a risky move that pays off due to Williamson’s exceptional ability to manage situations).

There was something infinitely and innocently charming about Circus 1903. This production has perfectly captured a moment in time that we’ve only ever experienced in films. Performed with exceptional and exquisite skill by the entire ensemble, Circus 1903 will leave you with a nostalgic longing for a simpler time and perhaps tempt you to quit your day job, turn off the screens and run away with circus.

Event details

Arts Centre Melbourne in association with Tim Lawson and The Works Entertainment present
Circus 1903

Director Neil Dorward

Venue: State Theatre | Arts Centre Melbourne VIC
Dates: 4 – 14 January 2024
Tickets: $71 – $119

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