Takes Steps to see this Spanish Court-themed show
Marlborough.news was one of the first in the town to catch the latest Gifford Circus show, Any Port in a Storm.
An exuberant, joyous affair, the circus skills are world class, the live band the kind you'd happily pay to see on their own, and comedy appealing to all ages.
The artistes hail from around the world, from talented youngsters at the start of a promising career to inspiring older hands. Dany Reyes is an Italian juggler and breakdancer and 'assistant' to Tweedy the Clown. Sergii Polikov is a Ukranian straps and balance performer on a fake grand piano harpsichord charming operatic singer, Viktoria Murtinova. The eight-strong Sol Troupe hail from Cuba, with latino snake hips between each act. For them, a whole section of the audience were displaced to make room for their Russian swing act, though it could not top (pun intended) the increasingly epic rope skipping, culminating in a three-person-high skip.
The Brazilian Mustache Brothers combination of high slapstick (literally) and tumbling were especially a hit with the under teens, whilst the chickens (actual poultry, not a stage name) haring around the ring and pecking Tweedy off the stage delighted the pre-schoolers (and their mums).
The youngest performer and still a circus student was the amazing Alin Shpynova from Ukraine. It's hard to see how further study could improve her act on the American bar, as she slid head-first from roof top of the pole to bottom, halting just inches from the ground.
Apart from the chickens, the only animals in this circus are the horses ridden by veterans Belgium-born Dany Cesar and Hungarian Attila Csilo.
The whole show was held together by German ringmaster David Pillukat and a spirited accompaniment from James Keay's band, from Spanish opera to Blondie.
This year, the show is part inspired by the meaning of the title itself, and partly on the 'dark, formal and elaborate world of the Spanish Court' of the seventeenth century, as depicted in the Las Meninas painting by Diego Velazquez. Elements of the painting are recreated as scenery.
The costumes by takis deserve a special mention, doing justice to the sumptuousness of medieval Spanish royalty. It's something to see veteran clown, Tweedy dressed up in brocade and wide lace collar only for his pants to fall down and...'ohhh! They're dirty!' Cue brown-streaked big undies flung into the crowd. Several times. Much to the disgust and delight of young and old. An oldie but goodie.
Giffords Circus is a like a high quality cabaret, threaded throughout by director Cal McCrystal's story. It's a large scale production, with about three times the number of performers as I last saw in a theatre show for the same price, 22 artistes and seven musicians - less than a quarter of the total crew required to get and keep the show on the road.
The kids' favourite was the clowns' parody of the whole performance which finished the show. Note perfect and hilarious, it defused the adrenalin from witnessing superhumanly strong and flexible humans risk their bodies for our entertainment. And, boy, were we entertained.
Any Port in a Storm plays in the big top on Marlborough Common until September 4, followed by dates in Cirencester and Stroud. See www.giffordscircus.com for more information.