Wednesday, 14 January 2015

PREVIEW Circus Ronaldo at London International Mime Festival

JUGGLING banjos or fruit of various sizes, singing mini operas, puppetry, music, merriment and dancing are just a few of the elements of a Circus Ronaldo show.
And the nine-strong group will be bringing this and more to the Southbank Centre for three nights from tonight, when they perform Amortale as part of this year's London International Mime Festival (LIMF).
The Belgian-based group has been a regular visitor to the festival since giving its first ever performances outside Flanders at LIMF in 1998.
Since then they have toured their irresistible hand-crafted brand of commedia-circus far and wide and with the current show promise a night at the circus like no other.
In fact the group has been entertaining audiences around the world since the mid 1850s.
In something of fairytale beginning it all started when Adolf Peter Vandenberghe, who was born in Ghent in 1827, ran away from home at the age of 15 to join the circus.
Starting off as a groom he was soon working his way up and became an acrobat. While he was with his circus troupe he met the daughter of some actors who were travelling around in caravans.
Their union created not just a family of their own but also paved the way for the creation of Circus Ronaldo, combining circus, variety and theatre.
Six generations later this family business is still going strong and its heritage of the days of the travelling fairground theatre, a warm-hearted Felliniesque world of uncomplicated popular entertainment, is very much in evidence within the shows.
"It is quite a romantic story!" says Danny Ronaldo. "My great grandfather's grandfather ran away to join the circus and married an actress who was with a pantomime and marionette company.
"Over the years since then our old style theatre and circus skills have been evolving but we have stayed true to the old fashioned variety and vaudeville performances."
And he says this is very much in evidence with Amortale which he describes as "bubbly, alive and kicking".
"It's a real mix of everything to do with circus and theatre," he explains. "There's slapstick, tragedy and traditional clowning, we juggle, play music, tell stories, sing and do acrobatics and other tricks - even arson.
"We have taken real life and human folly as our inspiration. We also looked to the Italian Commedia dell'Arte, the work of Fillini and our own improvisation to create the show.
"It is about Adam and Eve's love story and is very funny - in fact humour is the engine of the show. So, people get in the way of the story which makes it funny.
"The big and the small things in life are constantly mixed up together, and the most trivial of life’s burdens are dramatically magnified to the scale of a major tragedy.
"On the other hand, the great drama of life shrinks to ludicrously recognisable proportions.
"In these times of always higher expectations and all stress that comes with that, I think audiences get a warm feeling to see how the clown fails in everything and to see before your eyes that this failure is actually his big success!
"We try and show that the ugly is beautiful and the weakling strong. That gives courage."
Wearing costumes that take their inspiration from clothes worn about 100 years ago the group uses props that are of the same vintage to create the show which is performed on Ronaldo's antique and distinctly wobbly stage.
"Some of the marionettes, paintings, set and other props are very old," says Danny.
"They were created by my great grandfather so we are proud to have them in the show. The techniques used are also quite old but in these times of digital effects the old theatre skills give a wonderful emotion - it makes it more real for the audience and certainly creates a different atmosphere."
And despite being part of a mime festival the performers are anything but silent.
"Some of the characters are silent but some are very verbal," says Danny. "The music is also very important. We have a mix of old famous opera tunes and popular music from the beginning of the 20th century. It is all played live by us and includes a big wooden pipe organ.
"I hope audiences enjoy it because we are very excited to be bringing the show to the Mime Festival," he adds.
"We love London and its audiences and it's a great festival to be part of.
"It's our third time at the Southbank Centre. Even so, it's hard not to get lost in the many metres of corridors and backstage areas but it's got a warm feeling and great audiences!
"I like the way it feels alive with a real feeling of culture so we are really excited to be back."

Circus Ronaldo’s Amortale is on at the Queen Elizabeth Hall from Friday, January 16 until Sunday, January 18. Tickets cost from £17.50. Visit or or call the box office on 020 7960 4200.

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