Archaos: When Hell's Angels met Billy Smart's

Roll up, roll up – for an exhibition about the radical collectivist circus Archaos, running as part of the Mayor's Thames Festival this September.

It used to be that a trip to the circus invariably meant a series of sprightly performances accompanied by jolly music and overseen by a ringmaster in coat-tails and a top hat. The development of Nouveau Cirque in the seventies started to change all that. Archaos was a leading exponent of Nouveau Cirque and took a main role in the reshaping of the circus world. Its influence can be seen today in companies such as the Cirque du Soleil.

The exhibition, Archaos: Cirque de Caractère amasses memories from performers, press clippings, video extracts and photographs from the likes of Gavin Evans and Dominique Margot. These will be put in context by Sophie Kennedy Martin's history of the troupe.

Anarchist is not the adjective one would readily associate with a circus troupe, but anarchy is what Archaos aimed at. A "cross between Hell's Angels and Billy Smart's", Archaos sought out the motifs of the circus only to subvert them. Sequins were replaced by corrugated metal, artists juggled chainsaws rather than hoops, and girls on white horses gave way to stunt riders on motorbikes.

Twenty years ago Archaos was at the zenith of its success, but only a year later the troupe broke apart after a storm wrecked its uninsured tent. It was an apocalyptic end for an apocalyptic troupe. 1991 was also a year in which British manufacturing was wracked by the storms of a recession: manufacturing jobs fell to under half a million for the first time since records began.

There is a strange irony in the fact that a circus which modelled its acts on an "infernal factory" and prided itself on capturing the zeitgeist should implode at the same time as the manufacturing industry. The story of the rise, the demise and the afterlife of the doomed Archaos promises to be as at least fascinating as one of their original performances.

Archaos: the Sensations of the Circus World is at the Bargehouse, Oxo Tower Wharf, London from 9-12 September. Admission is free

Suggested Topics
Arts and Entertainment

Film Leonardo DiCaprio hunts Tom Hardy

Arts and Entertainment
And now for something completely different: the ‘Sin City’ episode of ‘Casualty’
TV
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Turkey-Kurdish conflict: Obama's deal with Ankara is a betrayal of Syrian Kurds and may not even weaken Isis

    US betrayal of old ally brings limited reward

    Since the accord, the Turks have only waged war on Kurds while no US bomber has used Incirlik airbase, says Patrick Cockburn
    VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but doubts linger over security

    'A gift from Egypt to the rest of the world'

    VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but is it really needed?
    Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

    Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

    Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, applauds a man who clearly has more important things on his mind
    The male menopause and intimations of mortality

    Aches, pains and an inkling of mortality

    So the male menopause is real, they say, but what would the Victorians, 'old' at 30, think of that, asks DJ Taylor
    Man Booker Prize 2015: Anna Smaill - How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?

    'How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?'

    Man Booker Prize nominee Anna Smaill on the rise of Kiwi lit
    Bettany Hughes interview: The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems

    Bettany Hughes interview

    The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems
    Art of the state: Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China

    Art of the state

    Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China
    Mildreds and Vanilla Black have given vegetarian food a makeover in new cookbooks

    Vegetarian food gets a makeover

    Long-time vegetarian Holly Williams tries to recreate some of the inventive recipes in Mildreds and Vanilla Black's new cookbooks
    The haunting of Shirley Jackson: Was the gothic author's life really as bleak as her fiction?

    The haunting of Shirley Jackson

    Was the gothic author's life really as bleak as her fiction?
    Bill Granger recipes: Heading off on holiday? Try out our chef's seaside-inspired dishes...

    Bill Granger's seaside-inspired recipes

    These dishes are so easy to make, our chef is almost embarrassed to call them recipes
    Ashes 2015: Tourists are limp, leaderless and distinctly UnAustralian

    Tourists are limp, leaderless and distinctly UnAustralian

    A woefully out-of-form Michael Clarke embodies his team's fragile Ashes campaign, says Michael Calvin
    Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza

    Andrew Grice: Inside Westminster

    Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza
    HMS Victory: The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

    The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

    Exclusive: David Keys reveals the research that finally explains why HMS Victory went down with the loss of 1,100 lives
    Survivors of the Nagasaki atomic bomb attack: Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism

    'I saw people so injured you couldn't tell if they were dead or alive'

    Nagasaki survivors on why Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism
    Jon Stewart: The voice of Democrats who felt Obama had failed to deliver on his 'Yes We Can' slogan, and the voter he tried hardest to keep onside

    The voter Obama tried hardest to keep onside

    Outgoing The Daily Show host, Jon Stewart, became the voice of Democrats who felt the President had failed to deliver on his ‘Yes We Can’ slogan. Tim Walker charts the ups and downs of their 10-year relationship on screen