Exploring the Future of Circus at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival

Jack Marsh, Artistic Director

I recently had the pleasure of attending the Edinburgh Fringe Festival: my first time at the world’s largest arts festival. “The Fringe” takes over beautiful Edinburgh, Scotland, every August, showcasing thousands of different shows across all genres throughout the entire city. Scottish cabbies seem to disagree on the exact number, but my informal survey tells me that the festival brings somewhere between 600,000 and 1,000,000 extra people to Edinburgh each August.

My mission was all circus: see as many shows as possible, especially good ones, to get a sense for what styles are out there, as well as what different performers and directors. With so many shows to choose from, many of them from companies I’d never seen before, I booked four or five shows each day and zipped around Edinburgh to various venues to catch them all.

Thankfully, the Underbelly – one of the producing entities of the festival – runs an area called the “Circus Hub”: a big top tent (just a bit smaller than the Circus Flora Big Top) and a Spiegeltent (a Belgian-style wooden frame tent) side-by-side, with a bar in between for enjoying a pint between shows. Many circus performances there, though there were no shortage of great shows in theaters around town as well.

Some highlights: 

  • “You and I” by Casus: an Australian circus company produced this wonderful two-acrobat show. A couple are stuck in their apartment due to rain, and pass the night away at home, together. Both men have great skills, and the show has a tenderness and love that was really heartwarming.
  • “The Artist” by Thom Monckton: a one-man clown show about an artist in his studio.  Fun and inventive, including a roughly 5-minute bit in which he pretends that a banana is getting into a hot tub – that particular scene has stuck with me since I saw it.
  • “Attrape Moi” by Flip FabriQue: I love this Canadian company for their joy in performing, as well as their high level of skill
  • UniverSoul Circus: The only American company I saw in Edinburgh, and a treat as always.  It’s hard not to feel energized by great hip hop dancing and great acrobatics, and this was no exception.  Their contortionists succeeded in making me feel squeamish.
  • “Réversible” by The 7 Fingers: Beautiful imagery and choreography from this beloved Montreal-based company
  • “Tabarnak” by Cirque Alfonse: The only show I saw that included a live band, which makes such a difference. Alfonse, also Canadians, are so inventive with how they use each circus apparatus.  Excellent Russian swing act to close the show, too. 
  • “Sediment” by Company 2: Another two-hander by an Australian company, and also beautiful. Some of the best dance and body work combined with acrobatics that I’ve seen. 

Between all the shows and meetings throughout the day with so many wonderful people in the circus industry, it was a busy time! But it was energizing and affirming, too: great to see so much wonderful circus, produced all around the globe, all in one place and rightfully alongside all other performing arts genres at the biggest festival in the world.

Clearly, the circus is thriving around the world, and we need to make sure it does so in St. Louis as well. The festival affirmed that circus has a bright future, something I’m excited to celebrate at our Flora Dora gala on September 21. I hope to see you there!

2018-09-06T00:01:42+00:00September 6th, 2018|Blog|