LADIES AND GENTLEMEN, BOYS AND GIRLS... welcome to the big top blog of Douglas McPherson, author of CIRCUS MANIA, the book described by Gerry Cottle as "A passionate and up-to-date look at the circus and its people."

Saturday, 14 September 2013

Putting the circus in the circus

Splendid Pavlik & Klava
Clowning in the Moscow State CircusBut it's the big tricks like Russian Swing
that give the show its wow factor

As Nick Wallenda’s walk across the Grand Canyon proved earlier this year, circus needs its big trick to draw a crowd. You can’t put the Grand Canyon in a big top, but you still need to give the public something big, special and spectacular that they can’t see anywhere else, otherwise why should they come out to see a show in a tent when they could buy a ticket to a comfortable theatre or stay in with the TV, a DVD or computer game?

Luckily, Britain’s traditional tenting circuses have been pulling out the big tricks this year - and pulling crowds accordingly.

At Zippos, now in the final weeks of its touring season, they have equestrian Nicky de Neumann riding three horses Roman style. That’s something I’d pay to see because while her stunts may date back a couple of hundred years to the days of Phillip Astley and, indeed, a couple of thousand years back to the blood and thunder of ancient Rome, where else in Britain can you see such raw circus today?

Click here to read my interview with Nicky de Neumann.

Thomas Chipperfield's
Big cats back in Britain
Talking of raw - and roar - Thomas Chipperfield’s tigers and lions are a late addition to Peter Jolly’s Circus and again provide a spectacle currently unique in the UK. With a proposed government ban on wild animals hanging over the British circus scene, it’s a case of see ‘em while you can.

The Moscow State Circus, meanwhile, has fielded a top drawer range of large-scale human skills acts in its current production, Park Gorgkogo (Gorky Park). Visit the show’s website for a mouth-watering video trailer that includes:

- The flying trapeze of Aliev’s White Birds.

- The equally gravity-defying juggling of the 4 Yakovleys, who perform while standing at right angles to vertical poles.

- And, best of all, a spectacular 10-strong Russian Swing act that sends its acrobats flying into the very top of the big top.

They’re all acts too big too stage in a theatre, and that’s what a circus needs: a unique reason to visit the big top.

Next week finds the Moscow State Circus crossing the sea to Ireland, where fans of the big trick can see them in:

Dublin, September 25 - 29 and Belfast October 2 - 13.

For more on the people and the acts that put the circus in the circus read what showman's newspaper World's Fair described as "The Greatest Show on Earth in a Book," Circus Mania by Douglas McPherson. Available from Amazon, all good book shops and direct from Peter Owen Publishers for the discount price of £10 including post and packing:

Peter Owen Publishers
81 Ridge Road
London N8 9NP

See also: The circus girl with the strongest hair in the world.

1 comment:

  1. These are promising developments, especially the return of the animals. Maybe the jury is still out on the menagerie, but ... yes ...

    BIG TRICKS. I think they will always please and persuade audiences to return. The big top will always need its Big Moments.

    Circus ballet can only go so far.