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Circus Maximus returns to the South Bank this Summer

Event preview

PEOPLE are getting used to the idea of voting for performers. We do it for The X Factor, The Voice and Britain’s Got Talent.

Now, Underbelly Productions and the National Centre for Circus Arts in association with IdeasTap bring you a show which involves audience votes but which offers something far more interesting than tired TV talent contests.

It’s untelevised, the voting’s live, it doesn’t take place in an overblown studio location, and it involves performers with genuinely extraordinary skills: Welcome to Circus Maximus.

Circus Maximus takes 20 circus acts. On each of four nights, five of them battle it out to win the live audience’s vote. The winners progress to a fifth night grand finale. There, they’re joined by one wildcard act which an esteemed panel of Circus Maximus judges deems to have been unappreciated by the great British public.

At the finals, it’s once again all down to the live audience vote.

The prize: £5,000 and a chance to create a whole new circus show with the event’s producers – Underbelly Productions and the National Centre for Circus Arts.

Underbelly Productions are the people behind the triumphantly exotic temporary auditorium modelled on an upturned purple bovine, which takes up residence every year for a summer season on the South Bank as part of the Udderbelly Festival. The company has established itself as a pioneering platform for modern circus in the UK and the Underbelly’s seal of approval is justly prized as a mark of genuine artistic class.

The National Centre for Circus Arts (formerly Circus Space) has recently been recognised by the government as a centre of excellence for the art form. It is the only place in the UK that offers a BA Hons degree in Circus Arts and has links with over 90% of the country’s modern circus companies.

For the first time this year, Circus Maximus is partnering with IdeasTap, the charity that supports the development of young artists in the UK.

So expect to see some ‘indescribable but gorgeous amalgams of music, dance, acrobatics, comedy, showmanship and gymnastics, and anticipate being terrified, intrigued, amused and awestruck.

Those who think they can deliver to these demanding criteria (over 18s permanently resident in the UK only) are invited to apply to be selected for the 20-strong shortlist at Ideas Tap.

Underbelly Productions’ Producer, Stephen Makin, said:

“It’s hugely exciting to have Circus Maximus back in the “Cow”. Last year was hugely popular and a great night out for audiences. Moreover it was a brilliant showcase for new circus artists. We’re working on developing a new show with the winners of last year’s competition and very much looking forward to seeing and working with the new acts and talents that this year’s competition will bring”.

Kate White, Joint CEO for the National Centre for Circus Arts, said:

“We’re thrilled that Circus Maximus is back again this year providing such exciting opportunities for UK circus artists. With a show in development from last year’s winners to premier in Edinburgh this summer we’re hoping that this will provide inspiration and impetus for this year’s applicants.”

Peter De Haan, philanthropist and IdeasTap chairman, said:

“We’re delighted to join our friends at Underbelly and the National Centre for Circus Arts in giving the next generation of circus talent a head-start with this fantastic opportunity to bring their work to Southbank Centre. This is part of our new programme, IdeasTap Inspires, helping young people across the UK bridge the gap between training and work, and launch their careers in the arts. We look forward to watching the future of circus swing into Udderbelly this summer.”

Dates, Times and Prices:

Heats: Tuesday, July 8 to Friday, July 11, 2014 at 7:30pm – £17.50.

Final: Saturday, July 12, 2014 at 5:30pm – £19.50.

Tickets are available in person at the Southbank Centre box office, by phone on 0844 545 8282 or online at