Showzam! in Blackpool (or why circus is hot)

Showzam! is Blackpool’s annual festival of circus and performance running mainly from 14 to 16 Feb.  It’s supported by LeftCoast, an Arts Council funded programme to support arts and culture along the Fylde Coast.

Why don’t we love circus more in Britain?  I mean, we go as children, and as parents.  But for the typical, adult theatregoer, circus is way off the radar.  And yet modern circus offers some of the most fascinating, funny and spectacular performances you could see.

IMG_1156I’d never been to the Blackpool Tower Circus Arena, effectively a permanent big top.  Performing here until 20 Feb are Akoreacro with their current production Klaxon, an ambitious blend of acrobatics and music.  Whereas many circus companies focus on the big scenes and find a way to fill the gaps with music or story, Akoreacro work the vibrant music, the intelligent performance and the stunning acrobatics seamlessly together.  Even during the most spectacular aerial routines, there’s clever stuff happening on the floor, and the music flows with the routine.  And it is very clever; the piano used for a bareback riding routine; the brush vibrating like a string on a cello; everything perfectly choreographed.

IMG_1149The rest of the festival is centred on the Winter Gardens, with an eclectic mix of performers.  I had easily the silliest 2’23” of my life in Lunapark, a micro-fairground from the Netherlands.  Barada Street, a UK/Kyrgyzstan duo, mixed ukulele, gentle acrobatics and great audience interaction to warm the crowd.  Abigail Collins showed off her hula-hoop skills.  Les Goulus rode around the Winter Gardens on their ‘horses’, wonderfully arrogant and surreal.

IMG_1154Outside, four stilt-walking black clad drummers from Close-Act Theatre (Netherlands) wandered the streets, just clearing the doors into the Winter Gardens.  A three metre tall werewolf from France, Lougarock, rode a three wheeled steampunk bike down to the beach to a heavy rock soundtrack, passing into Nando’s on the way to terrorise the diners.

Circus.  It’s where some of the most interesting ideas in performance are being developed.

Theatre lover, amateur director, occasional actor, writer.

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