A warrior-themed circus begins a tour of England on Friday with Ukrainian performers determined that the show should go on even though their hearts are very much still in their war-torn homeland.
Although the warrior idea behind the show was conceived in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, the theme has inspired its Ukrainian artists to carry on, said Russian circus boss Irina Archer.
“Every day they are worried for their relatives. On stage, they perform, they entertain, but deep inside … they are so worried,” she said.
“But they love entertaining people. It gives them strength,” she added.
Fifteen of the circus’s 23 performers are Ukrainian, said Archer, who set up the Circus Cortex with her husband, Paul, in 2021.
“Before the war, there was no divide. I’ve worked with a lot of Ukrainian artists over the years,” she said.
The Archers, who used to run the Moscow State Circus, took the Circus Cortex on tour in the U.K. in 2021 and had hoped to restart performances in 2022.
After the war broke out in February 2022, however, they found performers stranded in Ukraine or signing up to fight.
Irina Archer described the show, titled “Warriors,” as an “epic magical production” with lots of dancing and traditional circus acts such as juggling and unicycles.
Some of the performers, such as Tetiana Lotiuk from Kharkiv, only recently left Ukraine.
Trapped in the city at the start of the war, she left two weeks later, traveling to Hungary and then the U.K.
Others include circus family Viktor Gorodetskiy, wife Yulia and son Valdis. The three were forced to leave their home three weeks after the start of the war.
They took refuge with Viktor’s parents, also circus performers, before spending several months in Lviv and finally traveling to the U.K.
The tour, which runs until October, begins Friday in the northern city of Sheffield.