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."

Thursday, 26 February 2015

Cirque du Hilarious Review

Catch Britain's funniest clowns, Clive Webb and Danny Adams at the Grand Theatre, Lancaster on Sunday 8 March in their new show for 2015, Screaming With Laughter.  Box Office: 01524 64695.

For a preview of the funniest show on Earth, click here to read my review of a previous Cirque du Hilarious production in Southwold.

The clown team, complete with Cirque du Hilarious showgirls and Clown Force rock band have been maintaining a packed schedule of dates at Butlins holiday camps in Skegness, Minehead and Bognor for the past few years, so it's good to see them also fitting in more theatre dates this year, with more theatre shows in March.

For more on the father and son funny men, read a full chapter about Danny and Clive in Circus Mania - The Ultimate Book For Anyone Who Dreamed of Running Away with the Circus.

Bromance by Barely Methodical Troupe brings 'Bro Circus' to Udderbelly

A fine Bromance
Circus debutantes Barely Methodical Troupe

It's always great to see young talent making their own work, and that's the case with Bromance, the debut show by acrobatic trio Barely Methodical Troupe.

Louis Gift, Beren D'Amico and Charlie Wheeller met at the National Centre for Circus Arts and won the first Circus Maximus competition, which gave them the Arts Council funds to create this show at last year's Edinburgh Festival.

Bromance, which explores male friendship, will tour from May 6 before pitching up at London's Udderbelly Festival from 24 June to 19 July.

With 'bro country' big in America - and coming to the C2C festival at the O2 in London next month, could BMT have created the big top equivalent: Bro Circus?

National Centre for
Circus Arts
- where trapeze artists
learn the ropes
Click here to find out what else do students do after graduating the National Centre for Circus Arts, and here to read about the National circus school's rise from the literal ashes of a Victorian power station.

Monday, 23 February 2015

Circus Wonderland starring the Popolinos, Britain's best-dressed clowns, in Southampton

There was a time when every circus had a whiteface clown. Now Mr Popol - alias Paul Carpenter - pictured above, standing, with his comic partner, the traditional auguste Kakehole, is the only one left in the UK. Catch the Popolinos in Circus Wonderland, a brand new take on the classic big top, at the Apps Court Farm, Walton-on-Thames from March 18-22, and sample clowning as it used to be. Call the box office for times and tickets: 07531 612240.

What is a whiteface clown? Or an auguste? For more on the history and techniques of clowning, including interviews with some of today's finest performers, read Circus Mania - The Ultimate Book For Anyone Who Dreamed of Running Away with the Circus. Click here to read the 5-star reviews on Amazon.

Sunday, 15 February 2015

Human cannonball Gemma Kirby fired again!

Faster than a speeding bullet... Ringling stunt-woman Gemma Kirby celebrated Valentines' Day by being fired from a cannon for the 500th time, travelling 100 feet at 66mph at a show in Philadelphia.

Now that's the sort of thing we buy a ticket to the circus for!

Tuesday, 10 February 2015

Thomas Chipperfield - Why lions attack their trainers

King of the Cage
Thomas Chipperfield and Tsavo the lion

Following the news that trainer Faten El-Helw was attacked by a lion during a performance in Egypt (click here to read all about it), British big cat trainer Thomas Chipperfield has written an article in the Daily Telegraph online explaining why the animal behaved as it did. Read his article here.

Oh, and after reading the mane article do paws for a scroll down the 100+ comments where the refreshingly light-hearted tone includes plenty of puns and jokes, ie:

"Why do lions attack their trainers? Because they don't like any kind of shoes!"

Monday, 9 February 2015

Lion lady Faten El-Helw survives attack in Egypt

Queen of the Cage - Faten El-Helw
in the ring...

... and recovering from last week's mauling
Lion trainer Faten El-Helw survived an attack by a big cat during a performance in Tanta, Egypt, last Thursday. In a video taken by an audience member, a lion called Mandy is seen unexpectedly charging across the ring and knocking the trainer to the ground. What happened next is unclear, because the camera turns away from the scene. But, a few seconds later, Faten is seen walking with help from the ring.

Although hospitalised, El-Helw was released after two days and needed no surgery.

Perhaps the lion was just being playful - as Britain's Thomas Chipperfield explained in a comment piece in the Daily Telegraph. But even a playful lion can kill. El-Helw's husband and fellow trainer Ibrahim was killed by a lion in 2004.

What's it like to be at the mercy of two tigers attacking in earnest? I asked British trainer Martin Lacey Sr. Read his graphic account here.

Friday, 6 February 2015

21 Circus lions stranded in Peru

ADI's Jan Creamer and her husband ponder the next step for their
new collection of lions and beast wagons.
Well, they could always put on a circus as a fundraiser...

Twenty one lions 'rescued' from circuses in Peru are currently stranded in the country because Animal Defenders International have run out of money.

The animal rights group has launched an appeal to raise the £200,000 needed to air-lift the big cats to a sanctuary in America.

But wasn't it a bit irresponsible of ADI to seize the animals without having enough cash to complete the operation?

What will happen to the lions if the money can't be raised?

Perhaps an enterprising circus such as Ringling should step in and rescue the lions from ADI. I'm sure that Ringling star Alex Lacey (see him here, with a leopard) would give them a good home.

For the inside story on how big cats are trained in the circus, read Circus Mania - "A brilliant account of a vanishing art form" - Mail on Sunday.