CircusFest at the Roundhouse in London is a tricky affair. The title ‘festival’ feels like a bit of a misnomer, as the exciting programme of events is more of a ‘season’; Londoners can visit several times over the course of a month and catch a selection of shows, but anyone living out of town will be hard-pressed to find any day that offers the chance to attend more than a single event.
With big-name contemporary circus companies from around the world, as well as homegrown talent, CircusFest does open a high-profile door onto the current trends in new circus performance, helping to promote the art amongst the general TimeOut reading public. Nevertheless, I would still love to see a British festival of circus that operates a similar model to our European cousins – with options to see several different shows in a day, and to be able to see several more the next.
And to me, a festival is also notable for the additional activities that run alongside the main performance programme of events. The exhibition of Bertil Nilsson’s experimental photography project ‘Luminescence‘ is beautiful and surprising, but it won’t sustain a visitor to the theatre for long, especially when returning for a fifth or sixth show. Perhaps I would have found more to keep me occupied if I had been able to visit during the ‘take part family weekend’, which the website promised would have pop-up performances, workshops and food and craft stalls…
Of course, the venue is subject to logistical production constraints and financial considerations, so would no doubt be unable to condense their programme into a week of quick turnarounds and varied options. In London, theatre audiences come in the evenings and weekends.
In a few weeks I will be heading to Glastonbury to cover the Theatre and Circus Fields, and it will be interesting to see the other end of the British circus festival scale, with audiences who buy their tickets for several days of ‘experience’ rather than a single show.
For now, I’m glad of my London-based friends who are offering me a sofa to sleep on so that I don’t have to make the same train journey again tomorrow!