Trailblazing north London festival showcases contemporary circus

The magic of the circus was once confined to the Big Top – but thrilling trapeze and electrifying acrobatics have broken free and blossomed into something of a theatre zeitgeist of late.

At the forefront of the contemporary circus renaissance is Jacksons Lane Arts Centre in Highgate, known as one of London’s destination circus and cabaret venues, and it will show off its credentials hosting a six-week circus festival in June and July.

The beautiful vaulted interior of the former church will overspill with aerial acrobatics, trampolines, clowning and the downright unusual during the first ever Postcards Festival.

Artistic director Adrian Berry said: “Over the last year lots of really exciting artists came to me and said ‘I’ve got a piece, it’s only seven minutes long’ and I couldn’t really put that in for a night and I felt I was having to turn down all these artists because we didn’t have the context to present them.

“Originally we came up with the idea of a weekend summer festival. We thought of the idea of postcards as they’re quite short, you send them home from summer holidays, all these metaphors seemed to apply and we started to build around this idea.”

The programme includes new commissions and mixed bills from emerging and established artists - and one flamboyant work was made during a week of drunken intoxication with a team of scientists and a documentary film maker exploring the link between booze and creativity.

On Friday, June 10, all 40 performing artists and an audience of 200 will fill every corner of the centre in a mega-preview of what’s on offer in the weeks to come.

Most Read

There will be theatre, cinema, cabaret and jazz spaces and an installation art work called Happyland by Marie-Louise Plum featuring jolly headless ballerinas and schizophrenic jamboree clowns. If you visit just once, this is the day to come.

“I think circus has always been a bit trendy, but it’s one of the few things that is still developing,” said Mr Berry of the emerging art form.

“A few years ago circus started to move out of the Big Top and all the skills and disciplines of circus are being used in theatres.

“Circus now is where contemporary dance was 20 years ago, it’s still trying to find the language of circus, a different one outside the Big Top or Madam JoJo’s and defining it in theatre spaces – and that’s very exciting.”

Postcards Festival is on at Jacksons Lane in Archway Road, Highgate, from June 8 to July 20.

Tickets cost �10 a night or a choice of �5 early-bird tickets are available until Monday, May 30.