Preview: The Insect Circus, Hoxton Hall, London

A creepy, crawly circus extravaganza

Oscar Blustin
Monday 11 December 2006 01:00

The Insect Circus's boastful description of itself as "a unique theatrical extravaganza" is, for once, not far from the truth. Comprising a circus performance and a Grand Travelling Insect Circus Museum, housed in a vintage, mahogany-lined Bedford TK beetlebox lorry, this delightfully different theatrical experience revels in everything invertebrate.

The concept sprang from the imagination of the artist Mark Copeland. "The idea for the circus came from an exhibition of paintings I did a few years ago," he says. "It was about the similarity between, say, a snail and an elephant, a tiger and a wasp." Copeland's paintings, displayed at the Portal Gallery in London, explore a colourful world of warped proportion, with people riding beetle-back on horse-sized bugs, or tiny men climbing ladders to light enormous fireworks; the Insect Circus is but an imaginative gnat's hop away.

Returning to Hoxton Hall in London for the Christmas season after a sell-out run last March, the Insect Circus - in which actors take on the roles both of the circus performers and their insect sidekicks - has expanded its repertoire.

The larger-than-life acrobatic creepy-crawlies are now joined by several novel and astounding wonders: Fakira, the Queen of Mystery ("depending on the lateness of the hour"), Bobby Bob & her ladybird Bobbie, the Mighty Mites Tea Party and the Mantid Tango ("all the way from the Argentine, the latest dance craze!").

Besides his duties in the circus (acting as Ringmaster Ronnie), Copeland designs and creates the many intricate models that populate the travelling museum, purportedly a collection of costumes, props, puppets, toys and ephemera collected over 300 years by the Insect Society.

Regular acts such as The Balancing Scarab Dungo, Tallulah the Worm Charmer and Heroic Captain Courage and his Vicious Vespa Wasps will, of course, still be performing - and as warped as ever.

19 to 30 December, except 24-26 (020-7684 0060;

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