The magic of Circus 1903 

The magic of Circus 1903 
Image: CIRCUS 1903 in Australian i 2016. Image: supplied

Take the charm, the authenticity, the sawdust-in-the-veins dedication of the old world circus and combine it with imaginative, leading edge production and you get Circus 1903. The show that debuted in 2016 to wild acclaim around the world, returns to Sydney for a much appreciated encore. 

Chris Milford was there at the inception of Circus 1903, originally coming on board as a puppeteer for Queenie, the life-sized elephant and unofficial mascot. Milford is still working Queenie but he is now also the resident director of the show. 

Circus 1903. Photo: Ken Leanfore

“I can honestly, honestly say I haven’t been in a room full of so much talent ever in my career,” says Milford, explaining what he loves about Circus 1903.  “These are really world class athletes and it’s inspiring to be in a group of people that constantly train — religiously every single day. But they don’t just train at the same level, they are constantly trying something new.”

Chris Milford. Image: supplied

Circus 1903 attracts some of the world’s top circus acts, with many more lining up outside the tent door. It has a very good reputation in the industry, both for the quality of the show and the working environment. What also singles Circus 1903 out is that, unlike in many similar shows, the artists aren’t expected to rotate through several acts. 

“In Circus 1903, everyone’s only expected to do their one act, their most profound act. They’re not expected to do their secondary act…so then you have a larger cast…you’re getting everyone’s best, you’re getting everyone’s premiere performance,” explains Milford. 

Circus 1903 on America’s Got Talent. Image: supplied

That’s what makes Circus 1903 such a dazzling and thrilling show to experience. 

“And of course, David Williamson, who is the most incredible entertainer I’ve ever worked with. He’s a master, he’s just a master,” adds Milford, referring to the show’s charismatic and witty ringmaster. “He is Circus 1903  […] and to have him once again in this run in Australia is a blessing for the show. Everyone loves him and he loves everyone.”

Circus 1903, original rehearsals. Image: supplied

And there’s plenty of love left over for the two resident circus animals: Queenie, the mother elephant mentioned earlier, and Peanut, a baby elephant. Queenie was built by Mervin Miller and Tracy Waller, who were also responsible for building the incredible horse in the stage production, War Horse.

In terms of craftsmanship, Queenie is a masterpiece. 

“Any replica I’ve seen hasn’t come close to the quality that Mervin Miller and Tracy Waller have created. It’s truly amazing, from a puppetry perspective, what they’ve built and what they’ve made possible for puppeteers as well, considering the size of the puppet.”

Queenie and Peanut in Circus 1903. Photo: Ken Leanfore

Milford and the entire troupe are very excited about returning to Australia where it all began, and to be playing in a world-renowned venue like the Sydney Opera House. 

“Communities need this kind of entertainment to forget about the world for a couple of hours and to be inspired and to remember that anything is possible if you put your mind to it.”

December 21 – 29

Sydney Opera House, Bennelong Point

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