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Astley’s Astounding Adventures – New Vic

Written by on 27 September 2023

Astley’s Astounding Adventures

The New Vic until 21st October.

By Frazer Flintham
Directed by Theresa Heskins and Vicki Dela Amedume MBE

Photographs courtesy of Andrew Billington

The Story of Philip Astley – one of Newcastle-under-Lyme’s most famous sons – he invented the circus.  Sounds so matter of fact.  I have enjoyed the fact and shared the fact that Philip Astley, the founder of the modern day circus came from Newcastle-under-Lyme.  That fact has been brought to a new level at the New Vic!!

I hope that Philip Astley was as dapper and charismatic as Nicholas Richardson who brought a well know local name to life beautifully!  Even with his ‘strange voice’!! Despite being a ‘General’ he sounded just like his friend, gin loving Alfie Burrell.  In fact, he sounds just like me and likely many of the audience!!

A wonderful cast featuring many familiar faces including Danielle Bird, Gareth Cassidy and Michael Hugo.  That these incredibly versatile and talented actors should all be together in one great play is remarkable – and of course, they know each other so well that the result is electric!

Amongst the familiar faces on stage that we all know and love, were a few new faces – Adrian Decosta as Charles Hughes was dashing and funny, and there is always a standout actor in every play (and of course everyone’s stand-out will be different) but mine tonight was Siu-See Hung – she played a few parts throughout the night, including the little military horse, and with just a flick of the eyes she had everyone in stitches. A very talented lady.

To sum this play up completely in detail would take forever, so I am not even going to attempt it … suffice to say it is a very fast paced, feel-good performance, packed to the rafters with something funny or clever every second ….. amazing comedy, music, puppetry, lighting, acting, sound effects , audience participation, circus skills and of course acrobatics … the acrobatics were off the scale – including the sequence with ‘Philip and Patty’ which was breathtaking …. The whole performance, on stage and off stage …. absolutely first class.

If I was to say to a non-theatre lover that they would be ‘converted’ by a particular play … this one is it!  It has everything!

The play has been revived to coincide with Newcastle-under-Lyme’s 850th anniversary, and it is a celebration of one of Newcastle’s local hero’s.

A full house, lots of laughter, clapping, cheering and smiling faces throughout with a well-deserved standing ovation at the end …. another must-see, 5 STAR performance from The New Vic.

Philip Astley … one of our own …. he must have been an amazing man!!