Your browser (Internet Explorer) is out of date. It has known security flaws and may not display all features of this and other websites. Click here to Learn how to update your browser.

‘There is no place which recalls so strongly our recollections of childhood as Astley’s’

Charles Dickens, Sketches by Boz


Circus Past, Present and Future

1768: equestrian, entrepreneur and showman Philip Astley draws out a ring and fills it with astonishing acts – tumblers, horses, acrobats, jugglers, clowns. He created the first circus. Every circus, anywhere in the world, began at that moment.

2018 marks 250 years since that moment and during the year, Circus250 will celebrate this remarkable art form in a year-long nationwide programme of performances. The New Vic will join the global celebrations with Circus Past, Present and Future – a programme of events that will showcase the wonder of circus for all ages. And what makes our programme even more significant is that it will happen in the very place where Philip Astley was born.

Our relationship with circus started in 2009 on The Wicked Lady when we worked with aerial dance company Upswing. Since then, we’ve collaborated with NoFit State Circus to present Barricade in Lyme Valley Park; our Appetite team has delivered The Homecoming: a contemporary celebration of circus on the streets of the town centre in conjunction with Newcastle-under-Lyme BID and the Borough Council; and we used spectacular aerial dance to create the seductive world of our production of Dracula.

For Circus Past, Present and Future, we bring internationally renowned NoFit State Circus back to town to create their brand new show LEXICON. We’re working with the Victoria & Albert Museum on an outdoor exhibition all about circus history. We’ll host a visit from Circolombia – an inspirational Colombian circus company – and create a wonderful family focused Party-in-the-Park with the Brampton Museum. And in Roll Up, Roll Up, we’ll work with The Philip Astley Project on a professionally-led community performance.

At the New Vic, we’re creating two brand new productions. Theresa Heskins will direct Astley’s Astounding Adventures, a new play written by Stone-born Frazer Flintham about Astley’s extraordinary life, and Cabinet of Curiosities will take audiences on an immersive journey into the fantastical world of circus. All this is made possible thanks to the fantastic support of Arts Council England and you can find out more details about the first part of the programme below.

Keep checking back to discover more information about our celebrations; for now let’s run away to the circus together…


Themes and Stories
Mon 26 March – Sat 21 April
Giving an insight into the creation of a circus show, this exhibition will capture memories from NoFit State Circus’ development process as they create their brand new production in Newcastle-under-Lyme. The outdoor exhibition, displayed around NoFit State Circus’ tent, will showcase the imprint of circus on the local area and the stories that have fed into the creative development process.

No Fit State Circus Exhibition
Mon 26 March – Sat 14 April
To coincide with the world première of LEXICON in Newcastle-under-Lyme town centre, the New Vic will take a look back at 30 years of NoFit State Circus with a special exhibition. Exploring the photographic archive of the contemporary circus company, images will range from their formation in 1986, through to their more recent productions such as Bianco and Block.

In partnership with the V&A and Appetite
Mon 2 April – Mon 30 July
In association with the Victoria & Albert Museum, this exhibition held in the centre of Newcastle-under-Lyme will use images of original prints and drawings and stunning photographs, old and new, to follow the progress of circus as it travelled across the world, illustrating some of its remarkable acts, characters and developments along the way, and showcasing this phenomenal artform on a grand scale.




Circus Past, Present and Future is presented by New Vic Theatre and NoFit State Circus in partnership with Arts Council England, Newcastle-underLyme Business Improvement District, Newcastle-under-Lyme Borough Council, The Victoria & Albert Museum, The Brampton Museum and Art Gallery, The Philip Astley Project, Circus Works, Circus Futures and The University of Sheffield.


Book Tickets by Date

RT @PaulWilliams207: The research-informed Ages and Stages project led to the creation of a theatre company, new plays and the @LiveAgeFest

Latest News

Newcastle-under-Lyme lights up to celebrate Circus250

To launch the celebrations of Circus250, the official Sir Peter Blake designed logo for the national celebrations will be projected on to…

Read Article ›
Image by Andrew Billington

Newcastle-under-Lyme named as one of six Cities of Circus for 2018

Newcastle-under-Lyme will be a hub for circus celebrations in 2018 after being named as one of the six Cities of Circus by…

Read Article ›

Zoë Waterman joins the New Vic as Associate Director

The New Vic Theatre today announces that Zoë Waterman will join the theatre-in-the-round as Associate Director as part of their dedication to…

Read Article ›
RT @PaulWilliams207: The research-informed Ages and Stages project led to the creation of a theatre company, new plays and the @LiveAgeFest