There’s a party atmosphere in the Underbelly festival tent from the moment Circus Abyssinia: Ethiopian Dreams kicks off. The music’s pumping, the crowd’s clapping, and the performers look so joyful you can’t help but root for them. Bringing the heat from the horn of Africa to central London, Circus Abyssinia’s energy lights up the stage.
They kick things off with an incredible show of climbing and balancing, featuring two young boys whose stunts had us gasping. My 9-year-old’s mouth was a giant O as he watched kids just a few years older than him casually leap, twist and land on various body parts. Of my two boys, Jed is the more hectic so I had to remind him not to try any of this at home!
Another gobsmacking sight was the dance known as the ‘Sun-Worshipping Pythons’ starring two improbably lithe ladies. Now I’ve seen contortionists before, but these girls were something else. I think it was sitting in the Sirloin Seats at ground level, super close to the stage, that made it so startling. I found myself wincing, at times watching through my fingers, as they practically tied themselves in knots.
There’s even more impressive winding and bending in their next trick, a cloth-spinning show that’s simply beautiful to watch.
The loose narrative strand follows two street boys, Bibi and Bichu, who run off to join the circus. It’s based on the real life story of show creators Bibi and Bichu, who grew up to launch one of the world’s first Ethiopian circuses.
Bibi and Bichu are at the heart of this story, thrilling us with a perfectly timed juggling act. More astonishing displays of agility, strength and skill include tightrope walking and an ‘aerial dance off’ on the pole. Perhaps the night’s biggest cheers went to unusual clowning act Daniel Gezahegn. No red nose, no oversized shoes, just a cheeky smile and a goofy sense of humour that had the entire audience cracking up.
Circus Abyssinia is an absolutely fantastic show that will appeal to all ages. It’s wonderful to see a global circus from Africa and I hope many more follow (and flip) in their footsteps. I urge you to take everyone in your troupe along to see it. It’s just an hour long, and afterwards, you can grab a tasty bite from one of the Underbelly stalls, or explore London by the river. Good times.
Circus Abyssinia: Ethiopian Dreams (Babes Review)
Jed, age 9
‘It was great! Everyone was very talented. The youngest boys were doing flips and I thought they were very brave, because they were flying high in the air. The 13-year-old jumped and did a flip from two guys to another two guys. My second favourites were the jugglers, because they started with 2 bats each, then all the way until finally they ended up juggling 7 bats each! In the end, I enjoyed it a lot and I recommend it to everyone. 5 stars!’
Ezra, age 12
‘This was a brilliant circus show with an Ethiopian twist. It included acrobatics, high-flying jumps, climbing up poles, walking on tightropes, comedy and dancing. All of the different acts managed to entertain you without fail. I loved seeing the younger ones participating in it too. It amazed me how high people can be launched into the air, just by using arms. I was super chuffed at the end to get photos with some of the performers. That was a 5 out of 5, I cannot lie, bruv.’
Circus Abyssinia: Ethiopian Dreams is at Underbelly Festival, Southbank, Belvedere Road Coach Park, SE1 8XX (Waterloo/Embankment tube, rail). Shows at 7.30pm (Tue-Fri), 3pm & 6pm (Sat), 6pm (Sun); tickets from £15.50 (until May 20)