Underbelly Festival is back for its tenth year on the Southbank with cutting edge stand-up, circus, cabaret, variety, and mop ballet, writes Laura Burgoine…

Festival programmer Matt Keeler runs the Weekender through this year’s antics.

Underbelly is such a key fixture on the London calendar now. How do you keep making it bigger and better each year?
We are beyond excited to be returning to the Southbank for what will be our tenth year of shows and sunshine! What’s amazing for us is that as we’ve grown every year so too has our fantastic programme of shows. The key to this success is always asking ourselves how we can offer our audiences more. And the most fundamental way we can do that is by ensuring that we bring together a programme of the very best of acts from every genre. From Comedy to cabaret, from circus to burlesque, from music to dance, from immersive club nights to shows for the whole family, and every combination of these genres you can possibly imagine – we find something for everyone.

Can you list some highlights/must-sees for this year’s Underbelly?
This year our programme is packed full of returning Underbelly Festival legends alongside hot-new talents who are setting the London, national and international performance circuits alight. Don’t miss Ruby Wax, Stephen K Amos, Nina Conti, Sara Pascoe or if you are looking for more of a mixture, we have the Comedy Store taking residency and bringing us the best of the circuit. As ever we are bringing the best cabaret and burlesque shows, with House of Burlesque at the festival again for late night partying, as well as Frisky & Mannish making their glorious return to performing together. I could keep going and going – this is just a few examples from over 130 shows at the festival this year.

Best shows for kids? Best shows for comedy-lovers? Circus shows to look out for?
Kids and Family shows have always been a big part of our offering. Whether it’s the stage adaptation of the monster hit book Aliens Love Underpants. You child more in a partying mood? We’ve got Monski Mouse’s Baby Disco Dance Hall. Fancy some stand-up comedy but can’t get a babysitter? Try Screaming With Laughter, the original daytime comedy club where your baby can come too. There’s Shows for kids of all ages and all interests and from all over the world.
I’ve already mentioned some of our great comedy acts but here’s some more: James Acaster, Katy Brand, Josie Long, Ed Gamble, Limmy.
The list goes on.
This year marks 250 years since the birth of Circus at Astley’s in Waterloo. Underbelly has played a big role in the revival of circus. What’s exciting about this year’s circus acts?
During our time on the Southbank, Circus has played an increasingly large role in our festival offering. This year, what’s especially exciting for us is that we are presenting four different circus shows from four different continents. In this very special anniversary year we are so thrilled to present circus companies that show the entire breadth of the art form. From Circus Abyssinia, fresh from a mind-blowing Royal Variety performance, who kick-off Underbelly Festival in style with their high-flying antics, to Australia’s Circa who use no apparatus but push the human body to its absolute limits, all the way though to Circolumbia from South America who use very traditional apparatus in very inventive ways. SOAP from Germany use apparatus too – but it’s far from traditional. They use bathtubs filled with water and believe me, it’s one not to miss. Underbelly Festival favourites Black Cat Cabaret will be returning this year also and weaving their show with circus flare. As at Astley’s all those years ago, we are continuing to push the boundaries of what circus is and what circus can be.
We’re so proud that we can present these large and high profile circus groups, who without our support and partnership, would not be able to tour internationally and be seen by a London audience at such an affordable price point, in such an exciting location on the doorstep of where circus was born.

Underbelly is at the Belvedere Road Coach Park, SE1 8XX,
from April 6-September 30.
Phone: 0844 545 8252.
www.underbelly.co.uk