SHEFFIELD, England: 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, says Irina Archer, the Rusian-born Circus Cortex director who lives in the UK.
"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, according to Archer, who set up the Cortex Circus 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 Circus Cortex on tour in the UK 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, entitled Warriors, as an "epic magical production" with lot of dancing and traditional circus acts such as juggling and unicycles.
Some of the performers only recently left Ukraine, such as Tetiana Lotiuk from Kharkiv.
Trapped in the city at the start of the war, she left two weeks later, travelling to Hungary and then the UK.
Others include circus family Viktor Gorodetskiy, wife Yulia and their son Valdis. The three were forced to leave their home three week after the start of the war.
They took refuge with Viktor's parents, also circus performers, before spending several months in Lviv and finally travelling to the UK.
The tour, which runs until October, kicks off on Friday in the northern city of Sheffield.