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Welcome to London’s summer of ‘nu-circus’, with hot performers bending their bodies all over town

Roll up, roll up to the Southbank this summer and you’ll find a world of freakery, and we’re not just talking about the riverside buskers. From now until September, the London Wonderground festival’s circus tent will host death-defying stunts and the body-bendingly bizarre – and make no mistake, this isn’t fun for all the family.   

The Wonderground’s feast of cutting-edge shows is all part of a move towards a wholly new kind of circus, reckons former Australia’s Got Talent finalist Danik Abishev, whose hand-balancing antics will wow at the fest’s headline show, Limbo.

Set in a world between heaven and hell, it’s inhabited by a sexy cast of characters including acrobats, illusionists and aerialists who’ll be putting their lithe bodies through the paces to awe the audience. 

“This is a new breed of circus and the crowd is going to be shocked to see certain things,” the 27-year-old promises. “I can’t say too much about the show, but it’s a lot more edgy.”Abishev is certainly an authority on the subject, having trained for Russia’s state circus from the age of four (he was born and raised there).

Abishev then moved to Australia in 1996, where he toured the country in a circus troupe with his father, and in 2009 reached the grand final of AGT as a solo act. Unfortunately, doing a handstand on a burning ladder kept upright by his balancing skills alone wasn’t quite enough to impress the judges (begin booing loudly here).

Still, Abishev is well on his way to realising the ambition he revealed on the talent show – to become “Australia’s favourite circus freak”. Limbo got rave reviews at the Adelaide Festival and is set for a similar response here.

“When I was young and travelling with the traditional circus, people would yell at me that I was a freak,” Abishev says. “I’m proud of that label now. It empowers you. I even have a T-shirt that says it!” 

Another sexy show to catch this month is The Bleeding Hearts Circus at Hoxton Hall. The twisted passions, soaring highs and crushing lows of love will be played out on the trapeze, silks and aerial hoops, and it’s brought to the stage by Airealism, a company made up of performers who have day jobs and run away with the circus by night.

Sophie Pelham (above), 33, from Bromley, works in employment law but will be performing “a cheeky trapeze act” exploring what happens when you have “three people on one bar” (remember the theme of Bleeding Hearts).

She says she got addicted to flying on the trapeze after giving it a go as an after-work hobby, and has been honing her skills over five years.

“When you first start, it’s so painful,” she tells TNT. “Your skin tears and your muscles ache. It’s an extreme sport that you do several times a week.”

But the “tough love” of circus folk kept her focused: “You will fall off, but you have to get straight back up. You show these guys your bruises and they’ll just say, ‘I’ve seen worse.’”

More sexy circus in London>


Limbo. Until Sep 29. 7.15pm. £15+.  
Jubilee Gardens, SE1 8XX  
Tube | Westminster

Bleeding Hearts Circus.
May 30-June 1. 7pm. £10+.  
130 Hoxton Street, N1 6SH  
Tube | Hoxton


Cirque du so sexy: The hottest circus shows in London this summer
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