Astley’s Astounding Adventures: Review


A show to rival the magic of the film The Greatest Showman. Astley’s Astounding Adventures combines comedy, history, music and circus to produce an entertaining interpretation of his life.

The New Vic Theatre celebrates 250 years of the circus with their most ambitious project to date. Astley’s Astounding Adventures honours, Newcastle-under-Lyme’s Philip Astley, the inventor of the modern circus.

Mixing the thrill of fire, aerial stunts and circus acrobatics with traditional in-the-round theatre, Astley’s Astounding Adventures is successful in bringing a little-known story to life.

Although most of the action takes place in London, where Astley made his fortune, the North Staffordshire-born writer, Frazer Flintham ensures Newcastle-under-Lyme is a recurrent theme in the play.

Astley, described as the major with the ‘strange voice’ due to his North Staffordshire accent, takes on the London gentry to become a successful trick rider with his own riding school and amphitheatre.

The mix of actors and circus performers are instrumental in transforming the New Vic from a theatre to a big top. The lead actors even take part in the stunts, with the most impressive aerial scene performed by Nicholas Richardson’s Philip Astley and Danielle Bird’s Patty Jones.

Luke Murphy as Billy the Little Military Horse and Michael Hugo as narrator and clown, bring invaluable comedy to a biographical story. They involve the audience at every opportunity providing hats, flags and fliers. One brave audience member even gets to become part of Billy the Little Military Horse’s mind-reading trick.

The effort of the cast, in learning circus choreography as well as their lines, unfortunately resulted in actor, Andrew Pollard suffering a broken foot in rehearsal. However, with his leg in plaster, he still manages to portray numerous characters, from Colonel West to King George III.

Enjoyable for both young and old, Astley’s Astounding Adventures is a fantastic way to learn about Newcastle-under-Lyme’s father of the circus.

Astley’s Astounding Adventures is at the New Vic Theatre until 28 July 2018. See website for details.

For more information about Philip Astley visit


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