Astley’s Astounding Adventures
A revival of Astley’s astounding adventures is a stroke of genius as the 2018 New Vic hit graces the theatre in the round once again!
Written by Frazer Flintham and directed by Theresa Heskins and Vicki Dela Amedume MBE bring the story of Newcastle Under Lyme’s Philip Astley who invented circus as we know it today.
Review by Mel Osborne
The show celebrates 850 years of the Borough of Newcastle-under-Lyme – “Nobody wants to see a play” Sneers Astley.
Well, that is debatable – especially when the play has a heavy dose of circus thrown in it.
Astley’s astounding adventures follows the journey of a cabinet makers son who wants a better life for himself.
Danielle Bird and Nicholas Richardson return as Patty Jones and Philip Astley.
Danielle brings the part of Astley’s wife alive and leave the audience aghast with daring ariel stunts which will make your head spin.
Clowning around as always is Michael Hugo as Zipper who narrates the show charmingly.
Gareth Cassidy adds to the hilarity as Alfie Burrell with his sharp comic timing as Astley’s sidekick on the adventure.
Adrian Decosta gives a swashbuckling performance as Charles Hughes,
Notable mentions must certainly go to Siu-See Hung who was brilliant as the Little Military horse and provided many onstage antics as the wayward horse.Audience members beware!
Accompanying the show was the live orchestra fronted by genius violinist Farhaan Shah who wowed audience with his skills. A variety of percussion instruments created an exciting, heart beating ambience of the show.
The theatre was set up like a circus with wooden sides to protect the audience whilst the rest of the scenery was powered by the imagination as we experienced squelching fields and stinky saw dust filled floors.
This is a showcase of physical theatre at it’s finest as the actors perform trick riding skills mid-air with the help of some incredibly physically fit riggers on the sidelines.
It is truly mesmerising how skilled the performers are. The most stunning stars of the show are the circus performance team who perform amazing juggling, acrobats and a stunning fire display.
The story is fast paced and easy to follow, there are moments of merriment and moments of heartbreak.
As ever with New Vic productions – Astley’s Astounding Adventures is researched heavily, with not one stone left unturned.
A fantastic play to learn about how the Circus’s we know and love today were initially founded by a Newcastle-under-Lyme super showperson.
Andrew Van Burren director of The Philip Astley project CIC refers to Astley ‘as our version of Shakespeare’ – Astley’s Astounding adventures is what the New Vic theatre was made for and honours the legacy bringing adults and children together to celebrate the birth of modern circus.
The glitz and glamour of the circus skills, stunning costumes and fantastic acting cuts through the darkness of autumn in this exhilarating and passionate retelling of the birth of modern circus!
Astley’s Astounding Adventures is at the New Vic Theatre until Saturday 21 October 2023. For tickets and information click HERE
(All images Andrew Billington.)