Last night the Mayor of Wandsworth, Cllr Leslie McDonald officially opened the 9th Wandsworth Arts Fringe in the Battersea Circus Garden, an old-fashioned “big top” in Shillington Park Battersea. After the Mayor’s speech, we were treated to a showcase of some of the acts who were to appear as part of WAF – a festival of performing arts that goes on from May 4th to May 20th with over 170 events taking place all over the borough.
The showcase was called Hoops & Loops and for over more than two hours, the audience were treated to ten of the various acts who were appearing as part of this celebration of performing arts in Wandsworth.
The evening reminded me of a television programme I grew up watching “Sunday Night At The London Palladium” where you used to get an eclectic collection of acts including a juggler or an acrobat, a novelty act, some dancers, a comedian and a singer or two and in Hoops and Loops the audience got all that and more.
The evening started with Joanna Diaz an acrobat on a high-flying hoop, who was followed by Nikki & JD who performed an athletic ballet with a comedy twist and were highly entertaining. Following them were The Hogwallops who combined juggling with comedy, a Finnish slam poet Nihkee Akka who even did a poem in Finnish and Jason Patterson who was a very funny stand-up comedian. After the interval, we got to see amongst others Marcus Reeves who was slam-poet/singer, a very stranger performance piece about a superhero from Michelle Zahner and the evening came to an end with an amazing high-flying strap-hanging performance from Joseph Healey which ensured the evening ended on a high both literally and metaphorically!
As with Sunday Night At The London Palladium, these disparate acts were introduced by a compere and whilst in the early days of the show it was the late, lamented Bruce Forsythe, last night we had Abigail Collins in the guise of “Peggy Sued”, a failed Las Vegas showgirl who held the whole thing together. Peggy was very funny and quite rude for what was supposed to be a family-friendly show (a fact the organisers forgot to tell one or two of the acts!). Apart from the comedy, Peggy danced, did acrobatics, balanced a glass on her forehead and poured a martini into it using her feet. She also hula-hooped using ten hoops – one for each of her “husbands”! For the last trick she needed a “volunteer” as a stooge for her to make fun of and whose main task was to throw the hoops over Peggy’s head. This was a thankless task opening up the reluctant stooge to all kinds of abuse from Peggy but I think I handled myself with a bit of decorum and represented London theatre1 without too much embarrassment!
The Wandsworth Arts Fringe is a superb event for the people of the borough and of course visitors from outside. As you can see by last night’s showcase, there’s an amazing number of things to see before it ends on May 20th and what we saw last night just scratches the surface. There’s also theatre, music, parkour, magicians, dance and cabaret across the borough in over 50 venues. If you can’t find something to your liking at WAF, then you’re obviously not into the performing arts.
WAF 2018 is sure to be an enormous success, so much so that they’re already planning the 10th-anniversary celebrations in 2019. So, if you live in Wandsworth (or even if you don’t) get hold of a programme or have a look at their website and get yourself down to this corner of south-west London.
Pitchbend Productions Presents
BATTERSEA CIRCUS GARDEN
THE BIG TOP
169 Este Rd
May 4 to 13 2018
Part of Wandsworth Arts Fringe
In 1768, on an abandoned patch of land near London’s Waterloo, showman, entrepreneur and equestrian rider Philip Astley drew out a circle in the ground, filled it with astounding physical acts – jugglers, acrobats, clowns, strong men and bareback riders and what we now know as “circus” was born. This spring, as part of the celebrations marking the 250th anniversary of the invention of this art-form, the Circus Garden will transform a small park tucked away behind Clapham Junction into a circus mecca.