Carrying legacy in circus work

Daring ladies on the high hexagon act. — Pictures courtesy of Moscow Circus
Daring ladies on the high hexagon act. — Pictures courtesy of Moscow Circus

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GEORGE TOWN, Sept 29 — A trip to a circus normally spells fun times.

But for someone like Kenneth A. Lee, it has proven to be a lifelong passion that stemmed from his father.

Kenneth is the Malaysian producer and director of the inaugural Moscow Circus show currently doing its rounds.

For those who might remember, another Lee was involved in the circus, which was also Malaysian owned, The Royal London Circus (RLC) in the mid 1990s.

The senior Lee was Kenneth’s father, Paul LB Lee, who owned RLC, which toured Malaysia, China, South Korea and Thailand from the mid 1990s until 2007.

One can say that the junior Lee is a “chip off the old block” as he plans to bring his show all over the country.

The show is currently under way in Penang and will have stops in mainland Juru (Oct 6 to 21), Kuala Lumpur, Melaka, Johor Baru, Batu Pahat, Ipoh, Kuantan and Klang.

“I wish to carry on the legacy of my late father as he was the first Malaysian to take over the Royal London Circus, which was based in England,” said Kenneth of his father taking over the Chipperfield’s Circus and renaming it The Royal London Circus.

It became Malaysia’s first ever international circus.

“The circus has always been a part of my life.”

The man behind the Moscow circus, Kenneth Lee.
The man behind the Moscow circus, Kenneth Lee.

Kenneth, who is a lawyer by profession, added that the RLC set the standards for other circus shows in Malaysia and the region for almost three decades until it shuttered about 10 years ago.

“I was very fortunate to have had the opportunity of seeing my dad’s circus up close and understanding what it takes to run a travelling show.”

Kenneth himself has been involved in circus and ice-skating productions.

“In a sense, it’s a homecoming for me to now run a travelling circus.

“Although I was quite young at that time, I was involved in many of the legal and operational aspects of the Royal London Circus.”

Kenneth has now joined forces with Victor Pilipovich, who was his dad’s booking agent.

“Pilipovich and I collaborated to produce a circus show in China some years back and it was on the back of that last work we did together that I had approached him to work with me to co-produce our own production of the Moscow Circus for the Malaysian audience.”

His favourite aspect about the circus as a business was the challenge it gave one in promoting it.

“It is a very complex undertaking. There really is no one single formula to marketing success.

“As for what I like about it as a form of entertainment, it is the fact that it is real.

“No gimmicks. Just pure human ability being transformed into something that connects and entertains people.

“I get a buzz out of seeing people enjoy themselves.”


Award-winning juggler Gierisch.
Award-winning juggler Gierisch.
He also shared the challenges getting the performers and sponsors to get the show going since bringing foreign talents did not know him.

“How would I get anyone to agree to sign a contract when they did not know who I was and have never heard of The Moscow Circus production in Malaysia?

“The same problem presented itself with getting sponsors. Nobody was interested.

“That was the biggest challenge of all, being a entirely new production and having no track record in Malaysia.”

He added that he was grateful to Maybank for having confidence in him when he approached them for sponsorship.

He hopes that the Moscow Circus will set a new yardstick for circus productions here in Malaysia as he is very proud of what they have achieved but admitting that there is much more to learn from the current tour.

As for future plans for the circus, he is hopeful that the buzz created on social media will attract the attention of promoters in the region.

“We have tried to create a good balance of the traditional circus disciplines such as the flying trapeze, juggling, Russian Swing, diabolo spinning, aerial straps and silks with novelty acts such as roller skating and quick costume change illusions.

“Of course, no circus is complete without a clown.

“Our guy, Armen Asiryants has won accolades and prizes at various international circus festivals.

“If there was a highlight to the show, I would say it would be the opening parade.

“It is a specially produced opening gambit that has all our performers on stage in a visually stunning cavalcade of dance, floor acrobatics and aerial stunts.”

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