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Circus 1903 Elephant Puppets

Updated on December 15, 2016
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Delighted to be one of the first in the world to view Circus 1903 when its world tour began in Canberra. Australia. Worth the trip!.

Circus 1903 uses puppets to embrace the role of elephants in traditional circuses. Combined with outstanding human talent, the elephant puppets featured in the show effectively represent animal components of a circus. The appeal and impact of Circus 1903 is due, in part, to effective use of elephant puppets.

At the beginning of the 20th century, the most successful and popular circuses featured elephants. Circus elephants were workers as well as entertainers. They helped move and construct the circus tent and sideshows, and then performed for the paying audience. To attract the attention of the community, elephants were often paraded through the town. Who could ignore the presence and grandeur of an elephant?

Photo With Baby Elephant

Your children can have a photo taken with the baby elephant and stars of Circus 1903.
Your children can have a photo taken with the baby elephant and stars of Circus 1903. | Source

Personal Photos with Circus 1903 Baby Elephant

Circus 1903 follows the lead of historic circuses by taking their baby elephant into public places on arrival at a new city. The baby elephant's name is Karanga, which is translated to Peanuts in English.

And the baby elephant appears in the foyer after the show, giving children a chance to have a photo taken. So bring your camera because you won't want to miss this brilliant photo opportunity with Peanuts!

From the Makers of 'War Horse'

The creators of the Cicus 1903 elephants at 'Significant Object' took a lot of inspiration from the 'War Horse' puppets. They wanted realism of movements in both the mother and baby elephant, and wanted the puppeteers to move with grace.

The goal of the puppet designers was for their creations to feel like elephants, more than just look like them. As I watched the mother elephant and her baby interacting with each other on stage, I was moved by their natural beauty and grace.

Circus 1903 spent 12 months in production and rehearsals before their premiere performance in Canberra and the time and effort was well spent. The entire show is seamless and the elephants are a key focus of attention.

Elephant Puppets Are Significant Objects

Mervyn Millar of 'Significant Object' in London says they have regard for three key principles; sculpture, movement, and the ability of the puppeteers to work effectively.

As the big mother elephant makes her first sombre entry onto stage, the size and majesty of the animal is striking. She is supported by helpers feeding and grooming her. We watch as she's given a tub of water. Our introduction to the Circus 1903 elephants is natural and striking.

Baby Elephant at Circus 1903

I sat captivated in the audience of Circus 1903 and watched Peanuts, the baby elephant, nudging her mother. She seemed genuinely pleased to be near her. The puppeteer had no presence at all.

The baby elephant reveals elements of personality. Dancing. Nudging mother. Drinking playfully, and running away. The youth of the baby is clear as it runs beneath its mother, and cannot be controlled by the circus workers.

The energetic young elephant stumbles on the edge of the stage and the audience gasps. We are invested in the youngster's safety. The mother elephant works to help set up the circus, 'Heave ho!' and the difference between mother and baby is clearly evident.

We Forgot The Elephants Were Puppets

I knew the elephants at Circus 1903 were puppets before I saw the show, but I forget about the puppeteers and felt genuine emotion and compassion for the animals on stage. It surprised me how real the elephants felt.

I've seen real elephants and other live animals at other circuses and, I confess, I felt genuinely uncomfortable and sorry for those creatures. But how wonderful it was to enjoy the majestic presence of elephants without any of the guilt associated with their capture and confinement.

At interval, the buzz about the elephants showed other audience members were similarly impressed by the artistry of the puppeteers.

One woman said to her friends, "When you said puppets, I thought 'Are you serious?' and shook my head!" She then went on to say how moved she was and how she felt for the mother and the baby elephant.

The woman sitting alongside me in the theatre couldn't contain her excitement. Each time one of the elephants appeared on stage, she gasped and shrieked with delight. I saw her photographing her child with the baby elephant after the show and gushing with thanks to the performers.

Elephants in Circus Merry-Go-Rounds

This traditional merry-go-round features an occasional elephant among the horses. Merry-go-rounds featured in sideshow alleys at the circus.
This traditional merry-go-round features an occasional elephant among the horses. Merry-go-rounds featured in sideshow alleys at the circus. | Source

Circus 1903 Makes Elephants Popular

The elephant puppets at Circus 1903 have sparked renewed interest in elephants among the young children in my family and others lucky enough to have seen the show. On the merry-go-round near the Canberra Theatre Centre where we attended Circus 1903, the elephant is the new top pick for a ride. Instead of choosing to ride the moving horses, my grandkids chose to ride in the elephant.

That's entirely due to the skill of the creators and puppeteers of the Circus 1903 elephants! As Circus 1903 continues its world tour, elephants will undoubtedly become even more popular ith youngsters around the world.

© 2016 Alex Finn

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