Review of 'Astley's Astounding Adventures'


Philip Astley (Darcy Braimoh) is a little-known local hero of Newcastle-Under-Lyme who pretty much invented what we now know as a circus, well before PT Barnum came along. This show tells his story beginning with his returning as a war hero to an unimpressed England. Opening a horse riding school in London he soon realizes he needs to offer a little bit more if he is to make a living expanding to performing as a trick rider to taking on other acts eventually housed in a big tent on the south of the Thames.

The first part of the show tells of Astley's rise to fame and his on-again, off-again relationship with rival Charles Hughes (Adrian Decosta). As he struggles to figure out what he wants to do, his show gets bigger and bigger with the end of the first half and much of the second half of the show devoted to various circus performances in the small confines of the New Vic including, amazingly, some indoor fireworks. The show does make very good use of the space and it is amazing what they are able to achieve. There are also very imaginative elements including the use of horse saddles on rope descending from the top of the stage on which the performers demonstrate their riding prowess while stage hands to the side move the ropes up and down to simulate riding. Music is provided by a small group of musicians in one corner of the stage.

This production is a revival of the 2018 show, returning to the stage in 2023 in celebration of the 850th anniversary of Newcastle-Under-Lyme. There is one interval of approximately 20 minutes and a colourful programme is available for £4. Seat prices are reasonable, £10 to £30.50, with all opening night tickets only £10.

This was an enjoyable production if a bit lacking in personality. I never felt like I engaged with the show but always that I was merely a spectator and never emotionally involved, not helped by somewhat wooden performances by the principal characters who, perhaps, have little source material to work with to flesh out their roles. Having said that, the show is incredible to look at with great imagination to bring this story to the small round auditorium of the New Vic.

This is a show primarily of spectacle and in that it very much delivers.

Rating: “Really good but I have some issues”

Review Date: 2023-09-23

New Vic Theatre

Location: Staffordshire (England)

Address: Etruria Road, Newcastle-under-Lyme, ST5 0JG ENGLAND

Telephone: +44 (0) 1782 717 962


A wonderful modern, local theatre “in the round”. There is a restaurant and bar area on the first floor. Parking is available in the back (shared with local businesses) for a small fee during performances.