|Circus Mania review in The Call Boy|
- journal of the British Music Hall Society
“Douglas McPherson’s approach is the ingenious one of visiting differing sorts of circus, interviewing the performers and, by way of context, drawing us into circus history. Thus a visit to the Circus of Horrors and a chat with Hannibal Helmurto, the Pain-Proof Man, leads to a scrutiny of Victorian freak shows and Tom Thumb. It is done enjoyably but not uncritically and comprises a powerful introduction to circus performance then and now. In the case of circus the backstage toughness is professional rather than social. There are few tricks. It is very dangerous. The sword swallower really swallows the sword. Tragically, the day after the author’s interview with Eva Garcia appeared in The Stage she fell to her death in the circus ring. Here the fight is between obsession with the circus dream and daily endurance against the perils.
Tom Major gets an honourable mention and it was said of his son, premier John, that he was the only person ever to run away from a circus to join a bank. But it is the flight to the circus, as this engaging book explains, that leads to the disciplined rather than the happy-go-lucky life. If bankers were half so dedicated to stringent regulation and devoted awareness of public requirement as circus performers then the world economy might be a little brighter.”
If you’d like a copy of the “Ingenious” and “engaging” Circus Mania, you can save £5 off the retail price by ordering direct from Peter Owen Publishers at the Special Offer price of just £10 postage-free in the UK (£2.75 postage worldwide). Send your cheques to Peter Owen Publishers, 81 Ridge Road, London N8 9NP.
Or click here to buy Circus Mania from Amazon.
The Call Boy is a fantastic resource for fans of variety, music hall and light entertainment and is distributed free to members of the British Music Hall Society. The Society hosts bi-monthly shows, talks and other events and membership is warmly recommended. To join, write to Membership Secretary Howard Lee, Thurston Lodge, Thurston Park, Whitstable, Kent CTE 1RE.