Underbelly Festival Opens This Week With Global Celebration Of Circus As Artform Turns 250
Today (4 April) marks 250 years since Philip Astley staged the first ever circus in Waterloo. This Friday (6 April) mere yards from the site where one of the world's most exciting global artforms was born, Underbelly Festival will launch its 10th year on the Southbank with its biggest circus programme ever, including four headline shows from four different countries across four continents.
The feast of circus at this year's festival kicks off with a news show created by legendary Ethiopian performers Bibi & Bichu, Circus Abyssinia, which sees the duo team up with the inimitable youthful exuberance of the Konjowoch Troupe for a dazzling display of world class circus that celebrates their African roots. (6 April - 20 May)
Opening the Spiegeltent this season is SOAP the cult German production which combines acrobatics and water for a visually extraordinary and riotously fun spectacle that includes bathtub acrobatics, a mop ballet and a spectacular rainy finale. (3 May - 17 June)
Later next month Circolombia come to the Belly Theatre. One of the hits of last year's Edinburgh Festival Fringe, this fiery Latin circus-concert brings together the world's best circus performers and a powerful original live soundtrack - both steeped in Colombia's vibrant cultural heritage. (24 May - 14 July)
Then, in June, comes the latest masterpiece from the legendary Australian troupe Circa: Peepshow, which sees some of the world's finest acrobats push the boundaries of what the human body can achieve, and of what circus can be. (27 June - 18 August)
Other circus shows coming to the festival this year include The Very Circusy Caterpillar (19 May - 1 June) - a spectacular reinvention of kids classic The Very Hungry Caterpillar for the whole family, interactive family madness in Children Are Stinky (29 May - 17 June), swashbuckling adventure Arr We There Yet? (10 June - 1 July), subversive and hilarious acrobatic mayhem in Elixir (12-23 June), and an ambitious and imaginative re-telling of Hans Christian Andersen's classic by the relentlessly innovative Metta Theatre, Metta's Little Mermaid - The Circus Sensation (24 July - 12 August)
All of this spectacular entertainment is a glittering demonstration of how far and wide the circus arts have travelled since they first came together 250 years ago. Now, on this special occasion, from every part of the world, circus is coming home.
Photo Credit: David Jensen