Circus that’s greatest show on air

PUBLISHED: 09:52 26 November 2009 | UPDATED: 17:22 25 August 2010

GAME: Reporter Martin Sawden has a go.

GAME: Reporter Martin Sawden has a go.

A SPECTACULAR circus show charting life from the dinosaurs to space exploration is set to enthral audiences.

A SPECTACULAR circus show charting life from the dinosaurs to space exploration is set to enthral audiences.

Aircraft Circus launches its imaginative new Christmas Show, featuring dazzling aerial displays and fire-breathing puppetry, on Friday, December 11.

Based at the huge Hanger Arts Trust facility in Harrington Way, Charlton, the show combines high-energy flying trapeze skills with acrobatics, animation and drama to bring key periods in time to life. Among the stars is an impressive 9ft-tall raptor.

Run by two families, the show is spearheaded by Alex Frith, who performed at the O2's Millennium Show in 2000 and was circus consultant on the hit West End musical Lord of the Rings.

Its youngest member is 21-month-old India, who will be a flying angel in shows featuring dinosaurs, an Egyptian silks theme, Victorians learning to fly, cavemen and puppet lion-taming.

Spread over 7,000sq ft of floor space, the venue has a bewildering array of trapeze apparatus, silks and hoops dangling from ceilings over two levels. It is used by professional aerial and dance groups involved in the capital's thriving musicals.

But the exhilaration of trapeze is not confined to performers as the venue is seeing its popularity grow among those keen to tap into the fitness benefits. It runs eight-week workshops for youngsters and adults on static, flying and bungee trapeze and aerial skills on silks and hoops, as well as floor-based acrobatics.

Mr Frith said: "Trapeze is like pilates on adrenaline. You'd be surprised who comes here. They are people at the top of their professions from all backgrounds. We've got barristers, doctors, the editor of the Financial Times. Once they arrive they tend to stay on with us all through the year.

"It's a discipline that exercises every single muscle in the body."

Just from a 10-minute, first-ever session on a static trapeze, it's clear to see what he means. He teaches the first step, how to get on the bar, which is 6ft off the ground.

I've heard commentators at the Olympics diving use the term "pike" to describe a position, and it's a thrill to know I've made one, hanging upside down with legs stretched out over my head. Then hook the knees over the bar, reach up, hips forward, foot on bar and hey presto.

Hangar Arts Trust is a registered charity and Aircraft Circus, as the operator, helps youngsters on the Street League programme, which aims to build confidence among disadvantaged children.

Mr Frith said: "Young women, especially, on the programme have come here and we've seen the benefits it makes to their outlook, not just physical well-being.

"It's a myth that you have to be mega-fit to do trapeze. If a child has weight issues, they can just take things at their own pace. People of all abilities can get something from it and take it as far as they want, right up to flying trapeze."

To book classes or tickets for one of the Christmas shows, running from December 11 to December 20, email or contact 0208 317 8401. Go to for more information.

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