Visit London Blog » circus Enjoy the very best of London Fri, 22 May 2015 17:44:12 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Five Highlights Of The City of London Festival Mon, 09 Jun 2014 08:08:05 +0000 Guest blog by City of London Festival Director Paul Gudgin

The City of London Festival brings more than 250 events to the amazing buildings and spaces of the City of London from 22 June.  It is one of the biggest and broadest programmes in the festival’s 52-year history with music, comedy, dance, circus, cabaret and even a Korean production of Hamlet to whet the appetite.

FLOWN_PiratesOfTheCarabina_ Bowler Hat

The centrepiece this year will be the Bowler Hat; the iconic piece of City headwear has been turned into a large inflatable 200-seat theatre just beside St Paul’s Cathedral in Paternoster Square.

With so many events to choose from, here are a few festival highlights:

1. Immerse yourself in one of our 9th Symphony epics at St Paul’s Cathedral with the London Symphony Orchestra – Bruckner’s 9th Symphony (3 July) and Beethoven’s 9th Symphony (15 July). Seeing a massive orchestral concert under the dome of St Paul’s is an experience everyone should try, and tickets start at just £5.

St Paul's Cathedral

2. Soak up outstanding City views and great jazz with our ‘Jazz with a View’ series. Choose from Clare Teal at Unilever House (6 Jun), Kit Downes at The Gherkin (29 Jun) and Roberto Pla on the Roof Terrace of One New Change (8 Jul). This idea was inspired by Dizzy’s Club Coca-Cola at Lincoln Center in New York… we think our views are easily as good as their Manhattan skyline!

3. Enjoy music and beer in the Guildhall Yard with our City Beerfest (3 Jul). Sample a selection of beers from over a dozen of Britain’s most popular breweries while listening to live American bluegrass, folk and Old Appalachian music, overlooking the City’s ancient HQ.

4. See breathtaking circus performed in a giant Bowler Hat with exceptional contemporary circus companies PSiRC, Silver Lining and Pirates of the Carabina.

5. Have a good laugh with our comedy programme in the Bowler Hat – Doc Brown, Adam Kay, Russell Kane, Katherine Ryan, Andy Zaltzman, Richard Herring and many more well-known and up-and-coming comics.

Book events for The City of London Festival

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Unusual Bars and Restaurants For Valentine’s Day in London Tue, 29 Jan 2013 10:30:10 +0000

February is approaching fast, and for those of you in a couple and looking to impress, so is the decision of what to do for Valentine’s Day. It can be a great excuse to do something special that you’ll remember – forget roses and cheesy piano music, why not go to a venue that is memorable (even if your companion isn’t)?

Opulent Sarastro packs the romance and gusto of opera into its gold and red interior, crammed with curious objects. Dine below ten opera boxes in differing styles, along with brash, erotic artwork and regular singing performances. Situated on Drury Lane in the heart of theatre land, Sarastro is a popular pre-theatre dining spot. The food has a Mediterranean theme and there’s a three-course Valentine’s menu for £35 a head.

Evans and Peel
Dates should be fun, and the entrance to cocktail bar Evans and Peel demands a level of imagination. It is set up like a detective agency, and guests must state their ‘case’ before being allowed to enter. If successful, you’ll be directed into a 1920s speakeasy bar, with old fashioned cocktails (watch out, they’re strong) and American diner food like mac ‘n’ cheese.

Dans le Noir?
Tucked away in an unassuming Clerkenwell location, this French-inspired restaurant has a unique setup. You eat in pitch blackness, guided by blind waiters. Talking to a companion without being able to see them is a strange and liberating experience, and you also don’t know what you’ve eaten until after the meal. Before you enter Dans le Noir’s darkness, you select for the vegetarian, meat, fish or ‘surprise’ menu. The later will appeal to the adventurous – it included zebra and shark when I visited.

Garlic and Shots
The name says it all – Garlic and Shots in Soho is dedicated to the white pungent bulb, as well as over 100 vodka shots. If your date likes garlic (it’s supposed to be an aphrodisiac) this should be a winner. All the dishes, and bizarrely some of the drinks, contain garlic, and the décor is an eclectic mixture of American bar with influences from the restaurant’s Swedish founders.

Oriental fusion restaurant Inamo has two branches in London and some very tasty food, but that’s not why visitors come. The main draw is its e-table ordering system, which lets you scroll through images of food and view them on your plate before ordering from your table. You can also play games like battleships, switch between virtual tablecloths and watch the chefs working in real time with the ‘Chefcam’ function. A Valentine’s menu of four courses costs £35 per person.

A theatrical evening is guaranteed at Circus, the bar which doubles as a cabaret venue. It’s worth arriving early before a meal and staying late, to catch as many of the daring entertainment acts as you can – they range from acrobats to fire-breathers and dancers, and sometimes perform on the table in front of you. The cuisine is pan Asian and there’s a special Valentine’s offer for £70 per person.

Discover more unusual restaurants in London with our guide to the capital’s quirky restaurants.

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Cirque du Soleil: Totem at the Royal Albert Hall Fri, 06 Jan 2012 16:21:33 +0000

Every January, Cirque du Soleil takes up residence at London’s impressive Royal Albert Hall. I went along last night to see their latest offering, Totem, which returns to London after a successful run last year.

Loosely based on the origins of man, Totem brings together a variety of amazing circus acts, from a scientist who juggles fluorescent balls inside a giant test tube to a cast of realistic apes.

My favourite acts were the unicycle riders, who kicked dishes from their feet onto their heads; and a troupe of acrobats who performed breathtaking somersaults above Russian bars.

I also loved the modern-day clown, who played a sleazy Italian tourist; and the incredible special effects, which included a “sea” projected onto the stage, from which characters appeared to emerge.

Each act is accompanied by a different style of music from around the world. There’s no speech, which makes Totem ideal for deaf people and non-English speakers.

Totem is at the Royal Albert Hall until 16 February 2012


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Gorilla Circus Flying Trapeze School Mon, 16 May 2011 15:30:39 +0000

Since seeing Les 7 Doigts de la Main at the Peacock Theatre last year, I have had a burning desire to run away and join the circus.

This Sunday, I got as far as Walpole Park in Ealing and spent an afternoon flying upside down at the Gorilla Circus flying trapeze school – one of the only two flying trapeze schools in the UK that are open to the general public, and the only circus school in London that takes place outside.

A quick warm-up on the practice bar and we were up the ladder ready to have a go. Under the instruction of Erza and Debs, who have 20 plus years of gymnastics and circus performance experience between them, the group were ready to fly within minutes.

The below video shows my final attempt, where you get the opportunity to be caught by Debs who is on the other trapeze. As you can see, it’s all about the timing, which wasn’t my strong point on this attempt!

The classes are a really fun couple of hours and open to people of all ages and sizes. With a maximum of 10 in each group, you get a good few flights in each session. Flying trapeze classes this summer cost £22.50 per person and will be held at Acton Green, Regent’s Park and Battersea Park – booking essential.

See for more information.

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Cirque Du Soleil’s Totem at the Royal Albert Hall Thu, 06 Jan 2011 15:13:23 +0000

I went to see Cirque Du Soleil’s Totem at the Royal Albert Hall this week and I was blown away by how good it was. Totem tells the story of the journey of the human species from amphibian to the aspiration to fly.

The set was amazing, along with the incredible acts and characters that filled the Royal Albert Hall with colour and left us in awe of what was taking place in front of us.

The first act, a parallel bars routine, was brilliant and breathtaking as four artists performed just inches away from each other.

More exciting acts followed, including five unicyclists juggling metal bowls at some height, the foot juggling Crystal Ladies and the “swimming” trapeze duo, who had a beautiful routine.

The highlights had to be the pair of roller skaters spinning and whirling at unbelievable speeds on top of a tiny drum-shaped platform, and the amazing Russian bars display with 10 artists leaping from one bar to another.

It’s a great show, and again the Royal Albert Hall does it complete justice.  A must-see!

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La Soiree at South Bank Big Top Wed, 01 Dec 2010 13:57:44 +0000

La Soiree is a fusion show of all things fun and fabulous from cabaret to circus, burlesque to vaudeville; it’s got it all. The performance takes place at the South Bank Big Top, a huge coloured tent located just behind the National Theatre.

The show rotates a number of artists, all unique in their special talents. Many of the performers have come straight from award-winning show La Clique. La Soiree is held together by a few key performers: Scandinavian contortionist Captain Frodo, “Bath Boy” David O’Mer, tumbling duo The English Gents and cabaret chanteuse Miss Behave. Each act has its own little quirks, and fine detailing that has been perfected for the short sketches.

Hamish McCann’s Gene Kelly-inspired pole-dance routine was particularly memorable. He grips onto a lamppost, and holds his body horizontal as he walks through the air. The ease with which he performs is quite astounding considering the physical feat. I loved Captain Frodo, who captivates the audience while twisting his body and comically narrating his act throughout.

The venue is enchanting and warm, with a waft of freshly made popcorn in the air. La Soiree certainly considers the audience’s total experience. I didn’t find everything funny, and think there is perhaps a little too much clowning around, the acrobatics and tricks are so impressive I would like to see more of that area.

The best thing about it is every night of La Soiree is different so you can go again and again.

La Soiree has been extended til 27 Feb 2011. Get your La Soiree tickets here

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French Circus Comes to Town: Psy by The 7 Fingers Sat, 01 May 2010 10:00:11 +0000

It’s circus, but not as we know it. French-Canadian company The 7 Fingers (Les 7 Doigts de la Main) are currently showing off their special blend of acrobatics, theatre and dance in Psy at London’s Peacock Theatre.

I saw their last hit, Traces, a year ago and it was fantastic, but I was unprepared for the brilliance of Psy. It seems The 7 Fingers have been working hard over the past year – they’ve come back even better and more talented than before.

Set in a psychiatric institution, Psy features flying trapeze, a fireman’s pole, juggling, ropes, a large, sharp-looking knife, and amazing acrobatics. If you’re into the excitement of street dance and the circus skills of Cirque du Soleil, you will love this show.

Psy is thrilling from beginning to end, and the two-hour performance seemed to fly by in minutes. The rest of the audience appeared to agree: there was a standing ovation and, as we left the theatre, I overheard comments such as “unbelievable” and “the best thing I’ve ever seen”.

Psy is sure to be popular, so book your seat now!

Psy is at the Peacock Theatre until 15 May.

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Wam Bam Club at Cafe de Paris Mon, 12 Apr 2010 11:00:25 +0000

On Saturday night, I glammed it up for a evening of cabaret, comedy and burlesque at Wam Bam Club in the West End.

Wam Bam is a weekly event, held in the sumptuous surrounds of Café de Paris. For those who haven’t been, the venue is a Grade II listed building that opened in 1924 and retains all of its Art Deco opulence. The staff add to the luxe feel – whisking away coats and ushering us to our table with a flourish, then continuing to be solicitous but not intrusive all evening.

The club was set up cabaret style with tables of two to six, and exclusive banquette seating on one side. They had carefully arranged each table so all diners had a good view of the stage. As did the non-dining guests, who filled up the first-floor balcony areas.

Wam Bam’s lineup, led by the vivacious Lady Alex, was a mixed bag. My companions and I loved retro dancers Cirque de la Rouge, were impressed by Craig the Hula Boy’s skills, enjoyed Missy Malone’s burlesque, and laughed lots at Jack Whitehall’s stand-up routine – he’s definitely one to watch. Some of the other acts were rather flat, and my companion felt we could have seen a few more faces on the bill, but it was a good mix in general.

While we were entertained, we enjoyed a three-course meal. The food won’t be winning any Michelin stars, but is perfectly decent.

The Wam Bam crowd was a mix of birthday celebrations, hen nights and people up for a bit of razzle dazzle in the West End. Once the show was over and meals finished, the tables were swiftly moved away so guests could throw some shapes on Café de Paris’s magnificent dancefloor. A steady stream of crowd-pleasers from the 80s ensured we didn’t sit down for long.

At £75 for the 3-course meal and show, Wam Bam isn’t cheap, but it’s a top night out in a wonderful venue, right off Leicester Square. Turn up early, and you can attend a free burlesque lesson before the show, led by Lady Alex!

Visit London has heard that auditions are currently underway to  recruit a new batch of cabaret talent. Any performers out there who think they’ve got what it takes should get in touch with Lady Alex ASAP to arrange an audition. Check out for details.

And, don’t forget, next week’s London Burlesque Festival kicks off at Café de Paris. I, for one, can’t wait!

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A Royal Night Out at Circus in Covent Garden Tue, 02 Feb 2010 12:27:06 +0000

We’ve spotted lots of celebrities recently (including Boy George, Paloma Faith and Frank Skinner) but it’s not every day you get to dine with a member of the Royal family.

When I visited glamorous new restaurant Circus in Covent Garden, I found myself sitting near Princess Beatrice and her friends.

I guess the Royal party, like me, were keen to check out the new venue, where circus acts perform around the tables while you eat.

Once we’d admired the space-age décor by Tom Dixon (and worked out how to use the taps in the minimalist bathroom) we settled at a corner table to peruse the pan-American menu.

After some delicious cocktails and a starter, a guitarist appeared, followed by two fire-eating ballet dancers clad in burlesque-style outfits, who danced their way around the restaurant.

Then, when we’d finished our main course, two costumed aerialists jumped onto the centre table and started swinging from hoops above our heads.

We left at about 10.30pm, and there were still two acts to go. (There are normally four performances per night, roughly an hour apart.)

I loved the feeling of anticipation as we waited to see what would happen next.

If you’re looking for somewhere a bit different for a special occasion, Circus is the perfect place. You might not bump into a Royal, but with regular bursts of entertainment, you definitely won’t be bored.

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James Thiérrée: Raoul at the Barbican Thu, 15 Oct 2009 16:01:51 +0000 James Thiérrée: Raoul. Photo by Richard Haughton

Tuesday night saw the premiere at the Barbican Theatre of James Thiérrée’s new work, Raoul. I should really have blogged about this yesterday but I’ve only just picked my jaw off of the floor!

The virtuosity of this one man (or is it?) show has to be seen to be believed. He has been variously described as an acrobat, a clown, a poet and a magician. Raoul showcases all these aspects to Thiérrée’s performance and his skill blends them into a dystopian narrative where Raoul confronts his many demons. His world is wonderfully realised on stage and the set and lighting all have their part to play in the performance.

Thiérrée’s physical theatre may draw many references to his familial connections. His grandfather was Charlie Chaplin and his parents work as Le Cirque Invisible, who performed earlier this year at the Southbank Centre. In Raoul, he mixes his own miming and comic performing with spectacular puppets. A ghostly elephant, a metallic crayfish and a huge jellyfish all pass through Raoul imaginings. There is also a textile fish which was reminiscent of the fish from The Singing Ringing Tree, but that only added to the other-worldly atmosphere.

The work is virtually silent but the accompanying music interprets the movement and moods perfectly. I loved the Tarif de Haidouks interpretation. When the performance finished with some stunning acrobatic wire work it received a hugely deserved standing ovation.

The show continues at the Barbican until October 24 and is suitable for older children as well as adults. At the time of writing, tickets are still available.

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