Last night I went to see Cantina at the Southbank. It was the best circus I’ve seen for a while and I am a self-confessed circus addict. I have a (very very long) post in progress on the very subject, but I wanted to write this before the magic dissipates. It is the magic that I love the most I guess. The fact that you never know what’s coming next and, then, you never know quite how it happened.

Cantina did this brilliantly. It had the audience gasping and laughing and with no idea how the man who was walked over by a woman in too-high-to-walk-in stilettos didn’t wince. Or how fast you need to spin from a rope before you become a blur. Or how it is possible to rotate a wrist three times round without the arm moving.



I am loving the Underbelly this summer. A circus tent and an upside-down purple udder tent under an always bustling Southbank and within eyeshot of the Houses of Parliament, there are different shows on every night and a line up which is difficult to resist.

Dance, circus, burlesque, comedy, the slightly darker side of popular theatre. This is not Cirque du Soleil with its polished performances or West End theatre where, however intimate the venue, I always feel one step removed. No, this is rawer and more mischievous and a shared experience rather than a seated performance. There is nothing like watching a naked guy perform a magic trick on top of a piano to unite an audience….

I blogged, earlier, about how I want to start writing about the things I have been doing again. About how important it feels for me to pause, for a moment, and work out which bits touched me and the things that I don’t want to forget. Piano man might not make the cut but I’m definitely keeping hold of –

How it felt to watch a blindfolded man tumble down a rope from the centre of a Big Top and how the element of danger made the energy electric.

How it was impossible not to smile at the 1920s (?) dancing and how, every now and then, you could catch the cast members smiling equally delightedly at each other.

That you don’t need words to tell a story. That it can be told in sounds, and movements, and how the light changes, and, even, how one eyebrow curls up slightly.

That one of the things I love most about the circus is the element of fun and that fun, which I often under-rate, has some really important features – curiosity and delight and courage and exploration – wrapped up within.


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