We had a lovely, and rather unusual, birthday party for my ten year old last weekend. We took her, her older sister and three of her friends to see Giffords Circus.
Giffords is a small circus which tours Gloucestershire and the south west of England, setting up on local village greens. It was started ten years ago by Nell and Toti Gifford and is a little bit different from the other circuses that you can see in Britain. It is, I suppose, what you'd call traditional -- more like a travelling troupe than a Chinese State-style extravaganza-- and that's exactly what the Giffords were aiming for.
There are acrobats, fire jugglers, strong men, dancers, horse riders, a super-flexible gymnast... There's an absolutely brilliant clown -- the best I've seen -- not just hackneyed slapstick, but 'proper' funny. And there are various animals -- horses, dogs, doves, and even a turkey and a goose! The dogs, by the way, are dalmatians, which delighted my daughter, who is absolutely mad about dalmatians -- indeed anything spotty!
The show has an intimate, family feel. This is partly a facet of the small top, but it's also the fact that the performers clearly love what they do (we bumped into one of them in the loos, who remarked with a big smile on her face, 'It's not really work!'). You can also get a sense of just how hard it is to do the kinds of things that circus performers do -- one of the acrobats, who was trying to to do a backwards double somersault onto the shoulders of a tower of three of his fellows, missed first time. But they simply did it again, and it worked!
The show was beautifully produced -- very theatrical, excellent acting, gorgeous costumes. And the troupe is supported by a group of musicians who are extremely talented, including a singer with a fantastic operatic voice.
This was our first visit to Giffords Circus (I only found out about them because I happened to be flicking through a local magazine while I was waiting for my kids to have their hair cut), but I certainly don't think it will be our last. I'm already planning next year's outing!