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We're on fire at the Fringe; Visitors to this year's Edinburgh Festival Fringe can roll up to a new Circus Hub full of awesome acrobatic shows and death-defying stunts.


The Edinburgh Festival Fringe is almost upon us and the circus is coming to town like never before.

Underbelly's Circus Hub is new for 2015, the first ever major venue dedicated to all the fun of the Fringe. Festival-goers can roll up for an international programme of a dozen shows which will include two European premieres, four UK premieres, five Fringe premieres, and artists from across the globe. It also promises to showcase the best in homegrown circus with five shows from the UK.

Heather Holliday, for one, is delighted but then as a sword swallower and fire eater, she believes size really does matter. Having honed an ability to breathe fire like a dragon, she hates to see the results of her work doused by photoshop.

She said: "On posters, they make the fire smaller so it fits the space. That's never great as my ability to breathe a fire blast is what makes me the performer I am so I never want the flame to be smaller. That's happened a few times. Size does matter and my fire blast is big."

The native New Yorker is performing with Limbo, which provides entertainment to keep you on the edge of your seat including wincing contortions, gravity-defying acrobatics, stunts and illusions all set to a live score.

She is no stranger to the festival or the city, having performed with Limbo at Edinburgh's Christmas in 2013. She made her debut at the festival in 2012 with human blockhead Donny Vomit. They appeared as The Curious Couple from Coney, a reference to their Coney Island roots where she cut her teeth - not literally, thankfully - as the youngest sword-swallower in the world. It was a very different experience from the Circus Hub, which is situated in The Meadows.

She said: "We played a small venue, the Voodoo Rooms, to about five people every day. It was very humbling but also one of the best times I've ever had as so much was going on and Edinburgh became one of my favourite cities.

"The circus set-up is so exciting. I used to walk through the Meadows all the time and that's where we are going to be. The audience has always been there, it is just so hard to convince people, especially during the Fringe when everyone thrusts flyers at you, to come see you. It's a natural instinct for people to look down and walk on. A custom-built venue like the Circus Hub makes it impossible to ignore."

Underbelly's Circus Hub is made up of two big tops, the 750-seater Lafayette and the 250-seat Beauty.

The venues are named after The Great Lafayette, one of the world's most famous circus performers and illusionists, and his dog Beauty. Both died in 1911 and are buried in the city's Piershill Cemetery. It's a fitting nod to the past with performers who are very much of the future. France's La Meute - The Wolf Pack - are a team of six daredevils who use the Russian Swing to propel themselves into the air, and each other.

Acrobat Julien Auger said: "We've never been to the Fringe so this is very exciting. We know each other very well which is good because we use the very large and powerful Russian Swing to send us flying one at a time high into the air and we each need the others to catch us. Our timing has to be very good to pull off these amazing stunts. We like to challenge our fear and the fear of the audience."

Bearded, roller-skating Barbu, from the Canadian circus family Cirque Alfonse, will also make their Edinburgh debut with a show best described by the troupe's Antoine Carabinier Lepine. He said: "Barbu combines Quebecois folklore with modern circus and music. Audiences should be ready for mayhem, outrageous feats, music, video, circus and craziness and our beards."

Others acts include renowned international circus companies Cirk La Putyka with Dolls and Cirque Le Roux with The Elephant In The Room. Aerial circus company Ockham's Razor, from the UK, will make their Fringe debut with awardwinning double bill Arc and Every Action.

Belgium's Les Inouis and B-Orders from Palestine use their physical skills to tackle immigration, freedom and nationality. There is late-night cabaret fun from Piff the Magic Dragon while acrobatic troupe The Hogwallops and award-winning Aussie circus comedy act Trash Test Dummies are fun for all the family. There is also a return for Bromance, the award-winning show from UK circus company Barely Methodical Troupe, who wowed last year's Fringe.

The Troupe's Charlie Wheeller said: "This year the standard of circus is at a ridiculous level. To be performing among people we have idolised for a long time is special."

For sword swallower Heather, having the performers all under one roof is a rare treat in the world of the travelling circus.

She said: "It is really rare. You see each other at festivals but don't get a chance to hang out. In Edinburgh, you can get to know people. I can't wait."

Underbelly's Circus Hub is at Middle Meadow Walk, The Meadows, Edinburgh, August 7 - 29. For details of all acts visit:,


TRIBUTE Big top is named after The Great Lafayette, right, with pet Beauty

ROLL UP, ROLL UP To Underbelly's hub to see Heather Holliday, right
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Sunday Mail (Glasgow, Scotland)
Article Type:Circus review
Date:Aug 2, 2015
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