The circus may have evolved since the days of P.T. Barnum and Co, but thankfully it hasn’t lost any of that signature vivacious showmanship. What can you expect to see at the circus? Here’s everything you need to know about the circus in London.
The classic touring circus lives on, although it has changed a lot over the past few decades. Many of the questionable animal acts have long since been banished to the past, but that doesn’t mean the circus is any less dazzling. Circus Zyair is an example of a company that likes to whisk you back in time to keep traditions going, bringing the big top to town along with its ragtag crew of acrobats, clowns and jugglers showing off their talents, including some nerve-tingling high wire work.
For something a bit less conventional, try finding circus deals in London for Cirque du Soleil’s arena show, Toruk: The First Flight. It tours the world and is based on James Cameron’s Avatar –delivering an amazing spectacle by the clown-car-load.
The beauty of the circus is that no two shows will ever be the same. The range of talent on offer, from death-defying acts of daredevilry to the downright weird, means you’ll see something new and electrifying every time. Classics include trapeze artists, high-wire walkers and clowns. Then there are the sideshow acts outside the main event – such as fire eaters, the bed of nails, stilt walking and more.
Other weird and wonderful acts you might see listed at a circus show include hair hang, buffoonery, artistic cycling, the human cannonball and knife throwing. Whatever you do, don’t try any of these at home!
Going to the circus in London used to mean a big tent filled with a heaving crowd, bearded ladies, men on tiny motorbikes performing stunts and exotic animals you wouldn’t normally see outside of the zoo.
Times have changed now – you’re certainly going to see fewer animals (you’ll need the zoo for that). You’re more likely to see adrenaline-pumping dance acts rather than an old-school ringmaster.
What you will get is drama, thrills and plenty of comedy. Spectacle and joy are still the name of the game, and if you don’t gasp at least once then you haven’t got your money’s worth.
Circus history is filled with famous performers in various disciplines from around the world. Two of our favourites are Zazel ‘the human projectile’ and The Great Blondin. Zazel, born Rosa Richter, was the world’s first human cannonball. The cannon in question was actually a spring-based mechanism with a gunpowder charge added for extra flair, but that didn’t stop her wowing the crowds when she first took flight into a waiting net in 1877.
Unfortunately, being a human cannonball doesn’t come with the greatest career prospects and in 1891 she retired after missing the net and breaking her back.
Charles Blondin was a French acrobat who cemented his legacy when he strolled across the Canadian/American border, albeit atop a tightrope strung over the Niagara Falls. It’s a feat he repeated multiple times over the years, ramping it up by pushing a wheelbarrow, wearing a sack on his head and even stopping to cook an omelette halfway across.