2018 is witnessing a very unusual celebration – the beginning of the modern circus and it took place, right here in the heart of London.
It was in 1768 that a former cavalryman named Philip Astley seeking employment came up with the idea of demonstrating horse riding skills to the paying public. He drew a circle in the ground close to what is today Waterloo Station and filled it with trick horse riding performances, along with acrobats, jugglers and eventually other animal acts. People flocked to see this new form of entertainment, the first time such a collection of activities had been seen under one roof.
From this moment 250 years ago, all modern circuses anywhere in the world owe their origins. It has proved an enduring concept as witnessed by the stunning performances at the opening of the London 2012 Olympics and the rise of groups such as Cirque du Soleil.
Not surprisingly, there are lots of celebratory circus activities to be enjoyed while a resident of Presidential Marylebone apartments London throughout the summer starting with the CircusFest at the Roundhouse this April. It includes several world premieres and countless international circus artistes including companies from Sweden, USA, Finland and Palestine.
Until mid May, Cirque Berserk will be taking traditional circus skills to the theatre with a West End Show at the Harold Pinter theatre that has been described as ‘Cirque du Soleil on steroids!’ Every minute of the performance is filled with heart stopping acts such as motorcyclists in the Globe of Death, aerialists, daredevil stuntmen, jugglers and more.
Book at a stay in one of the comfortable Covent Garden accommodation London and take a look too at the Underbelly Festival on London’s South bank taking place from April through to the end of September. Several stunning circus shows will be available including Circus Abyssina featuring high flying acrobatics, death defying tricks, clowns to the accompaniment of Ethiopian dance beat music. Another spectacular show that has been scheduled for this festival is Circa – a group who have been described as the ‘rock stars of the circus world.’ Expect some incredibly precarious aerial scenes and stunning towers composed by groups of acrobats as well as extreme bending.
New events are constantly being added to the list of activities celebrating Circus 250 so it is well worth keeping watch for anything new. For example, very recently it was announced that in late July and early August, Circa Tsuica are working with Gandini Juggling to perform a specially commissioned piece known as Cascade outside Somerset House. They will be performing within the rise and fall of the 55 water jets in the fountains in honour of Circus 250. Other acts within this Circus Sampler programme include artistes performing on the Chinese Pole and tight wire.