This is the New Vic Theatre’s most ambitious show to date. Directed by Theresa Heskins and written by Staffordshire-born Frazer Flintham, it tells the story of Philip Astley – the father of the modern circus. Born in Newcastle-under-Lyme in 1742, Astley rose from humble beginnings to become the international impresario who invented circus as we know it today. Astley’s Astounding Adventures was commissioned as part of the New Vic’s Circus Past, Present and Future season, which celebrates the 250th anniversary of the art form. The show, which combines theatre with circus, is co-directed by Vicki Amedume, who also provides circus choreography). We were invited to watch Astley’s Astounding Adventures and here’s our review of it.
What we thought of the show?
Although the New Vic isn’t a circus big top, its circular stage provides the perfect setting to tell the story of the original ‘greatest showman’. With the audience surrounding the performers, it easily feels as if you’re inside one of the original 18th-century circus arenas.
Astley’s Astounding Adventures pulls off the impressive feat of threading together spectacular aerial displays and other circus stunts with a stage play. It also manages to enthral both children and adults alike (I was joined by my husband, our eight-year-old son and his 12-year-old cousin, and we were all thoroughly entertained).
Each member of the multi-skilled cast delivers a captivating performance, and various elements of circus feature, from juggling and trick riding to acrobatics and fire displays.
And they say the ‘show must go on’, which is certainly the case for cast member Andrew Pollard, who performs from a seat beside the stage owing to the cast on his leg. But this inconvenience in no way hampers his performance. The production may chart the most significant parts of Astley’s life, but it’s definitely no history lesson. Packed with comedy (not only from the clowns), it’s a riotous, spectacular celebration of the wonders of the circus.
So what are you waiting for? Roll up, roll up!
Danielle Bird Patty Jones
Gareth Cassidy Alfie Burrell
Jason Eddy Charles Hughes
Michael Hugo Zipper
Nickcolia King-N’Da John Astley
Luke Murphy Billy the Little Military Horse/Dibdin
Andrew Pollard Colonel West/King George III
Nicholas Richardson Philip Astley
How much are the tickets?
Tickets range from £14.50 to £24. Concessions receive a £2 discount, while there are also discounts of £2 for groups of 10 or more. To find out more about tickets and discounts, visit the theatre’s website (see below).
How do I book tickets?
Visit the New Vic’s website: www.newvictheatre.org.uk or call the box office on 01782 717962. (A transaction fee of £1 per ticket applies when booking online.)
When is Astley’s Astounding Adventures being performed?
The show will start this Saturday and continue until 28 July 2018. There will be evening performance at 7.30pm and matinees on selected dates at 2.15pm. For full timing details visit New Vic Theatre’s website.
Where is New Vic Theatre?
Things to note:
- The New Vic welcomes all customers and is committed to providing access to the arts for all.
- Free parking is available close to the theatre entrance for Blue Badge holders (reserve a space with the box office).
- Automatic doors and level access into the foyer, ramped access to the auditorium on the ground floor and lift access to the first floor.
- Wheelchair spaces on both the ground and first floor.
- Disabled toilets on both levels.
- Induction loop system (not available for amplified performances and an infrared-assisted hearing system).
- Baby-changing facilities available.
- Assistance dogs are welcome, and water will be provided. If you wish to take your dog into the auditorium, let the box office know when booking.
- The balcony seating is accessible by stairs only, is about 30ft above the main stage and isn’t recommended for very young children and those with mobility concerns.
- There’s a captioned performance on July 24 at 7.30pm, a relaxed show on July 26 at 2.15pm and an audio-described performance at 2.15pm on July 28.
By Colette Warbrook
About The Victoria Theatre
The Victoria Theatre Company was the first professional company in Britain to perform permanently in the round – that is, with the audience on all sides of the acting area. Today, The New Vic is known both for its professional productions and for its award-winning work in the community. The company’s first base was Scarborough from which it toured to towns without their own theatres, taking the ‘theatre’ with it – raked platforms providing in-the-round seating for 250. Newcastle-under-Lyme was visited regularly and a permanent North Staffordshire home was planned. On 9 October 1962, a converted cinema opened its doors as a theatre, an event that received no mention in the national press. In 1983 an appeal was launched to raise funds for a new theatre. With local donations totalling over £1 million, the New Vic opened in August 1986. In the years since, the New Vic’s work has developed an increased national and international reach with productions transferring to London and Manchester, and partnerships formed with the Royal Shakespeare Company and the National Theatre Studio.
About Circus Past, Present and Future
The New Vic’s Circus Past, Present and Future programme has been made possible thanks to support from Arts Council England’s Ambition for Excellence programme. NoFit State Circus’ production of Lexicon is supported by the Arts Council of Wales and Arts Council England. Circus Past Present and Future has been created by the New Vic in partnership with NoFit State Circus, Newcastle-under-Lyme Business Improvement District, Newcastle-under-Lyme Borough Council, The Victoria & Albert Museum, The Brampton Museum and Art Gallery, The Philip Astley Project, Circus Works, Circus Futures, Roundhouse, London, The University of Sheffield, Upswing, Circus 250 and the New Vic led Creative People and Places Programme, Appetite. More information about Philip Astley and his extraordinary legacy is available from The Philip Astley Project and the Van Buren Organisation.
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* We were provided with press tickets in exchange for a review. All opinions are our own.