DAVID Williamson is used to performing illusions and astounding feats of magic. As Magic Dave he is known as one of the world’s master magicians and has advised the likes of David Copperfield and David Blaine.

But next week he is set to pull off his greatest trick - by transporting audiences at The Lowry, Salford Quays, back more than a century to the days the circus came to town.

David plays Willy Whipsnade, the ringmaster of Circus 1903 a remarkable show which brings together some of the world’s leading circus performers.

“There isn’t really much of a narrative to the show other than we are presenting a circus coming to town in 1903,” said David. “I am the guide; I tell the story of the circus.”

Using the latest theatrical techniques, Circus 1903 is a remarkably evocative show.

“The attention to detail is amazing,” said David. “Our costume designer spent a year getting the period costumes right. The set, the music and the lighting design all help to make it a magical experience for everyone.

“And then we have all these circus performers at the top of their game from all over the world.”

Taking a circus and transforming into a stage production has been a mammoth undertaking.

“There is as much choreography behind the scenes and backstage as there is on stage,” said David. “While one act is performing out front, there is a team of people preparing for the next act to come on.

“I get to see what’s happening from the wings and it’s like watching a show within a show. To put each performer and their scene on stage takes a tremendous amount of work and resources backstage.”

The circus performers are steeped in circus.

“Very often they are fourth or fifth generation performers,” said David. “These skills have been handed down, often they started out when they were five or younger.

“This show honours and celebrates what the circus was all about. When the circus came to town in1903 schools closed and whole town came down to the railyard to watch the whole spectacle unfold.”

Although boasting some of the best circus performers in the world, everyone involved in Circus 1903 admits that the real stars of the show are the elephants.

These huge puppets have been designed and are brought to life by the same team involved in War Horse.

“I always say that the audience is not prepared for the emotional response they will have when the elephants come on to the stage,” said David. “I certainly wasn’t prepared for it.

“Throughout rehearsals I saw them hanging in the back – they were enormous sculptures, pieces of art - but then the puppeteers got inside them and the lights changed, the music swelled and the elephants came out on stag. It is so lifelike.All your sense tell you it’s a live elephant up there.

“When you are on stage with something that big, you have to respect it. As in War Horse we don’t attempt to hide the puppeteers but actually that’s why they vanish and you believe you are seeing a real elephant up there. People are completely charmed by it all.”

David has been heavily involved in Circus 1903 from its inception helping write the show and also advising on various scenes.

But as the ringmaster, he also gets the chance to show off his own undeniable performance skills.

“I get to do magic and comedy and audience participation so it’s a perfect fit – this role really plays to my strengths.

“Not only was turn of the century the golden age of circus it was also the golden age of magic with the likes of Houdini, Carter and Keller touring the world. This is my chance to pay tribute to those people who inspired me.”

Circus 1903 has played to sell out theatres around the world and the response from audiences has been the same everywhere.

“No Marvel movie will ever compete with actual human beings flying through the air,” said David.

Circus 1903, the Lowry, Salford Quays, Tuesday, November 19 to Saturday, November 24. Details from 0834 208 6005 or www.thelowry.com