BROMYARD-based ringmaster Chris Barltrop has celebrated the 250th anniversary of the invention of modern circus by writing a play all about it.

He goes back to Georgian England, before a single big top had been raised and when ordinary people were crying out for a new form of entertainment; but what?

Two and a half centuries ago, war hero and trick-rider Phillip Astley roped off a ring in an open field in Lambeth, London, near today’s Waterloo Station, and performed astounding displays of equestrian expertise.

Building on their early success, he and his wife added a clown, rope-walkers and acrobats to their presentation, and so the circus was born.

A spokesman said: “Bromyard actor Chris Barltrop has worked as a circus ringmaster all over the world for over 40 years, appearing in two Royal Variety Performances and spending seven years on tour in the UK with the renowned Moscow State Circus.

“To help celebrate Phillip Astley’s legacy, Chris has written a one-man play Audacious Mr Astley in which Astley himself tells the story of how circus came to be, and reveals his character and personality.”

The play runs 45 minutes. It gained a five-star rating at this year’s prestigious Edinburgh Fringe Festival, praised by the critics as ‘fascinating, engaging’ ; ‘Entertaining, informative, classy!’

And at the beginning of November Chris Barltrop is putting on two performances locally.

On Saturday November 10, Audacious Mr Astley will be performed in the Falcon Mews, Bromyard.

The evening starts with a two-course buffet supper, followed by the show. Tickets: 01885 483034.

On Monday November 12, the play will be performed in the studio at the Regal Theatre Tenbury.

Tickets: 01584 811442