Antonio, Maddie and George – What the Circus? at The Garage – photo ©The Eye Snapper


I have discovered many truths since embarking on the career of theatre reviewer, but one stands out. The smaller the theatre, the bigger the surprise.

The Garage is a delightfully small auditorium, yet like many small things it is perfectly formed. Everybody is within touching distance in this room, and much of what occurs within that space is indeed touching.

This week sees The Garage in circus mode, with a show presented by ‘Flight of the Escales’ entitled ‘What the Circus’.

Performing circus skills with the dedication that they demand is an obsession of some very particular people, who give a level of physical and mental determination to their art that many of us can respect but few will choose to emulate.

Traditionally circus has been a very separate branch of performing arts from theatre, but this show blends the skills and techniques from the the best of contemporary circus with a delightful episodic theatrical exploration of what it means to be in that circus, why a performer chooses circus and how it conditions every moment of domestic life.

The three performers of this show are immediately engaging. I feel that they have all known the discipline of twisting a few more shillings from the busker’s pitch – if not they are missing a trick. This is a physical show where all three are more than impressive, they are damn sexy, making every audience member wonder why touch is not important in their lives. While they showcase their individual skills it is their interaction that makes this production so appealing and engaging.

We are presented with a series of distinct tableaux, each complete and self-explanatory but with a common theme of deconstructing circus, and looking at why people become obsessed and engaged with this very physical form of entertainment. We learn about the route to this obsession from the performers, but it is mixed with other tales and dramas so we can never be sure whether this is narrative or fiction. From teacups and toasters to chairs, tables, posts and a rope this is all circus. An early delight is a revisualising of Twin Peaks, the very long running TV mystery. Their version is shorter but just as crisp. And woody.

The audience cannot fail to be impressed by the serious skills of these three, yet we are comfortable knowing that this is not a show that takes physical challenge to the stupidly dangerous level that circus sometimes seems to demand in search of new barriers to transcend.

On stage are Antonio Harris, Maddie MacGowan and George Orange (or Fuller). Each has a specific and well shown performing skill, yet also they each bring a rounded performance with tales full of pathos and humanity and as a threesome they perform as one, almost seeming to be one multi-limbed body as they interact. Their personalities could not be more diverse but their joy in performing together is just one of many things that keeps us attentive from beginning to end of this exploration of the genre of circus. All three performers have distinctive and distinguished careers, but locally grown director Sarah Calver has brought together a show that is greater than the sum of its parts.

To understand how each has dedicated themselves to their particular skills you must see this show for yourself. Set out through the chilly weather for the warmest bit of theatre in Norwich right now, you will enjoy this delightful show.


©Julian Swainson


Devised and performed by Antonio Harris (Chinese Pole), George Fuller (Clown), Maddie McGowan (Aerial Rope) the show is at The Garage from Thursday until Saturday at 8pm.

Tickets for WHAT THE CIRCUS? can be reserved by calling The Garage Box Office on 01603 598646 or by visiting
Show trailer:
What the Circus? Is supported by The Roundhouse (London) The Garage and The Oak/LIT (Norwich). Further supported by Jacksons Lane (London), New Cut Arts (Halesworth) and Cambridge Junction. This project is funded by Arts Council England.

Read lots more here: and read our earlier article here: