Roll up, roll up, the circus is in town

Written by Peter Davison.

Ella, Ceri and Hannah from Gifford's Circus urge the crowds to roll up, roll up! Ella, Ceri and Hannah from Gifford's Circus urge the crowds to roll up, roll up! Roll up, roll up, the circus is in town.

And not just any old circus, but Gifford's Circus. Gifford's put on a particularly 'Marlborough-ish' kind of show – part traditional English circus, part cabaret, part physical theatre.

Each show has a theme – Joplin came to Marlborough in 2006, with its 1960s theme reflected in costumes and music. Caravan (2008) was set around a horse fair and 2010's Yasmine was inspired by the life of legendary equestrienne Yasmine Smart, who played herself in the production.

Last year's tour was called War and Peace and explored Napoleon's disastrous intrusion into Russia from a Russian Aristocratic family's view. It is, perhaps, what you'd expect from founder and creative producer Nell Gifford, who has a degree in English literature from Oxford.

This year's tour is called The Saturday Book. Somewhat aptly for a town with a growing reputation for literary excellence, organisers promise a witty collection of vignettes, tableaus, stories and paintings based on an annual miscellany, published between 1941 and 1975, which provided literary and artistic commentary.

Writers included John Betjeman, Graham Greene, Laurie Lee, Philip Larkin, George Orwell, Siegfried Sassoon and PG Wodehouse, while LS Lowry provided pictures.

Gifford's Circus, in all its artistic gloryGifford's Circus, in all its artistic gloryThe show is directed by Cal McCrystal, who has worked with The Mighty Boosh and Sacha Baron Cohen, and whose Royal National Theatre's hit show One Man, Two Guvnors – on which he was physical comedy director – transferred has played the West End and Broadway.

The cast includes loveable clown Tweedy, a veteran of children's television and a star on both sides of the Atlantic, Bibi the Ethiopian horse-riding juggler, Ukrainian gymnastics troupe The Godfathers, while Francois Marietta and Sarah Schwarz will be providing ariel thrills above the ring.

There'll be animals too, including Sallyann and Ionut Ronescu’s Comedy Dogs, pony trick riding with The Victorians and Giffords favourite Brian the goose.

The Saturday Book opens tomorrow (Friday) at Marlborough Common, with performances at 5pm and 7.30pm, and runs until Monday, September 3.

Once again, the circus will be bringing a most unusual pop-up restaurant to the town. Artistes and audience members dine together on a three-course meal made from seasonal and local ingredients for £25 a head.

Circus Sauce is also serving afternoon teas at £11 a head, and it will open during the intervals, serving freshly baked cakes, traditional ice creams and beverages.

Performance tickets cost £21 for adults and £14 for children under 14. For a full list of showtimes and booking details, log on to

Pictures from show are now on our Facebook page at