Astley’s Astounding Adventures at the New Vic

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Nicholas Richardson as Philip Astley
Nicholas Richardson as Philip Astley. Pic by Clara Lou Photography

Astley’s Astounding Adventures – increase the added emphasis on Astounding by one million per cent and you might just be able to imagine what this sensational show achieves via this review.

Unbelievable circus performers combined with passionate and convincing acting bring a piece of history to life in more ways than one in the New Vic’s most ambitious show to date.

The story of Newcastle-under-Lyme’s Philip Astley dates back hundreds of years – an equestrian entrepreneur and showman who followed his dreams, battled against the odds to draw out the first circus ring in 1768 and go on to become a worldwide circus phenomenon.

Written by Staffordshire born, Frazer Flintham and under the direction of the New Vic’s Theresa Heskins, Astley’s life story is played out in the round exquisitely.

Nicholas Richardson is more than effective in his deliverance of a man whose legacy is pertinent in today’s society. Richardson is somewhat addictive to watch as he explores the rollercoaster life of Astley along with the delightful Danielle Bird who plays love interest Patty Jones.

Daniel Bird as Patty Jones
Danielle Bird as Patty Jones. Pic by Clara Lou Photography

As Astley and Patty’s relationship grows a scene in which the couple are dangling from aerial silks has the audience drawn into a magical romance which is sincerely beautiful.

Although there is a serious side in explaining Astley’s life and his precious circus creation, humour is abundant throughout with Michael Hugo an absolute delight to watch. Hugo switches from a silent circus clown to acting as two race commentators in genius style while Astley’s companion, Alfie Burrell is equally engaging.

Billy The Little Military Horse, played by Luke Murphy is a comedy sketch in himself not forgetting the hilarious scene which sees Philip Astley confront rival Charles Hughes (Jason Eddy) in a squelchy marsh which has the entire audience in hysterical laughter.

As the story unfolds the audience learns of Astley’s idea to put a roof on the amphitheatre to allow performances to take place all year round by candlelight, and this is fittingly showcased in the round. Each scene flows from one to the next and you can’t help but be drawn into the charming Astley biography which was why it was of no surprise to see the whole audience on their feet at the end.

Astley’s Astounding Adventures is simply remarkable. This is more than a must see show – this is a show you will want to watch and you will remember forever!

This show finished at the New Vic on Sat July 28. 

Circus Performers
Circus performers. Pic by Clara Lou Photography