I remember going to the circus with my mom back in the early 1980’s. There were clowns, tightrope acts, and of course elephants. I still have some vivid memories from the show. I think the circus is something that invokes a sense of nostalgia for all of us. This week I got to relive that magic when Circus 1903 opened at DPAC on Tuesday night.
Circus 1903 brings you back to the days of the traditional circus at the turn of the century. Think less flash and more skill and wonder. The show is broken down into a series of individual performances with each act no doubt the result of a lifetime of commitment honing the performers special skill.
The opening scene is set outside the circus tent with “The Flying Fins”, a threesome performing flips using a teeter-board; followed by the Cycling Cylone who rides a bicycle in using balance and positions you wouln’t believe. There is a comical sideshow scene that becomes a show stopper when a contortionist called the “Elastic Dislocation” stuns the crowd with the indescribable ways she bends her body as if it were rubber.
Of course there are elephants too (Queenie and Peanut) through the use of life-sized puppets, designed by Mervyn Millar and Tracy Waller for Significant Object, the company that created the puppets for “War Horse.” The show does not try to hide that there are people inside these puppets, but somehow through their smooth movements and the magic of the stage your mind almost instantly begins to see them as real, and they are quite the site.
The real star of “Circus 1903” is its ringmaster, Willy Whipsnade, played by the magician David Williamson. He fits the bill will with a bushy white mustache, a booming voice and quick wit. He really steals the show in two different scenes were he invites children from the audience to the stage. The unpredictable nature and the comical interactions with Willy had the audience roaring.
Circus 1903 is a fun time for the whole family. Catch it now before they pull up the stakes and the Big Top leaves Durham.
“Circus 903” has performances at DPAC through Sunday, Oct. 1st. For tickets visit https://www.dpacnc.com/events/detail/circus-1903.