As you cross from Embankment to The South Bank and you are more likely to head off left and wander along past the Festival Hall and National Theatre than to turn right towards London Eye. The South Bank has always been a great place to stroll, with street artists and music, market stalls and plenty of places to buy a beer or a glass of wine and chill out looking over the Thames.
But until the end of September, it’s well worth turning right. Under the bridge you’ll find a fenced off area. London’s Wonderground. A fantasy playground for grown-ups with all the fun of the fair and more. There are bars, a fabulous show for just £10 and some great food on offer.
Voted Best Newcomer in the 2012 London Cabaret Awards, London Wonderground offers a delightful and hedonistic mix of circus, music and sideshow. At it heart is a 1920’s Spiegeltent, which is a circular 600 seat performance tent that simply oozes the decadence and naughtiness of previous eras. But it is an open space of forever-interacting shows and activities, that bring out the school kid in you, and have the naughty wickedly scary shows that still make you scream in fear for the performer.
Surrounding the Spiegeltent area are sideshows, bars, eateries, and the obligatory bearded lady. Where in London could you go to a fairground side show shooting arcade and use traditional air rifles and cork guns, or throw heavy bean bags at tins to win your prize?
Hidden secret mazes, candy floss sales surround the open seating area and help build up the feel of a vintage circus. This doesn’t feel like being in bustling London any more.
Friendly food stalls and open bars make this a welcoming place suitable for all ages, and plenty of staff on hand so you never need to queue or wait. Plenty of seats and tables makes it comfortable to mix with friends, or just sit and watch the world as you never knew it could be.
In the World of Wonders side show, you can see everything from sword swallowing, electric chair effects, magic and amazing physical feats. In fact, almost everything you would see had you gone to a 1920’s fair.
The main act in the Spiegeltent is LIMBO, an amazing, awesome, inspiring and basically mindblowing mix of live music, acrobatics, fitness, illusion and highwire. From the very start, you are wrong footed in all and any assumptions you may have about the show, and for the duration of 75 minutes you are completely and utterly enthralled. Everything is done using music and gestures, so the foreigners in the audience could follow as easily as I could, and were just as amazed.
It is a show you could bring both you kids and your grandparents to and they all would be held spell bound. I am still raving about how good it was.
A hidden gem London Wonderground is, right under our noses.
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