A hit circus show that premiered in Australia before travelling the world for seven years is returning to the Sydney Opera House.
Circus 1903 is the brainchild of creative producer Simon Painter, and it's named for a time when screens didn't exist, circuses toured the country, and the audience had never seen an elephant.
"I wanted to go back to the age where circuses were the most extraordinary things that happened on earth," Painter told AAP.
There are circus elephants, but they're not what you might expect, made from panels of fine mesh and operated by puppeteers.
The audience can see the humans at work, but the movement of the puppets is so realistic that it's easy to forget they are not real, Painter said.
The giant puppets have travelled with Circus 1903 as it has played to audiences around the world - possibly real elephants would have been easier to look after, he joked.
Circus 1903 also features illusionists, contortionists, and balancing acrobats, in period costumes recreated from museum pieces and old photographs.
While the opening act and finale haven't changed since Circus 1903 premiered in 2016, with the same ringmaster, magician David Williamson, the rest of the show is entirely different.
Painter is proud to return to the Sydney Opera House, where the first show he ever produced, Le Grand Cirque, played in 2008.
"We've done shows in 400 cities and the easiest, most joyful place to do a show is at the Sydney Opera House, out of all of them," he said.
Circus 1903 plays December 21-29 in the Sydney Opera House Concert Hall.
Australian Associated Press