In case you missed it, 2018 is being celebrated all over the world as the 250th birthday of circus. But a lot can happen in 250 years and, when we talk of circus now, we have to lose its definite article. The art form has evolved into a multifarious genre, and nowhere can that be seen better than at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe.
A glance through the Dance, Physical Theatre and Circus section of this year’s programme reveals shows that tell stories, shows that share messages, shows that make people feel emotions, and shows that make people feel sensations. There are shows for adults, shows for children, and shows for all the family. There are shows where one person performs a variety of disciplines and shows where a variety of people all perform the same discipline in an extended hour of artistic exploration. There are shows that bring various acts of extraordinary skill together into a single entertainment in a circular arena, entertaining a 21st century crowd in the same way those first circuses did 250 years ago (it’s also worth checking all the other sections of the programme too – circus-based work has been found in Theatre, Comedy, Children’s Shows, Cabaret, and Musicals & Opera).
The innovative quality of circus is what has propelled it through the last quarter of a millennium. Introducing new technologies to isolated communities in an era before mass communication; harnessing the zeitgeists of railroads, Hollywood, and television to share its mystique with the masses; borrowing from other art forms to offer surprising spectacles and share ideas; showcasing new possibilities of what humankind can achieve…
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