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, 25 February 2017

Is the circus dead and buried? A circus in a cemetery digs its grave even deeper

If you go down to the cemetery... forget killer clowns.
Watch out for sacrilegious aerial dancers

Has the image of circus hit an all-time low? Once the big top was a magical place that whole families flocked to for wholesome entertainment. Clowns - how funny! Trapeze artists - how daring! Elephants - just look how big they are!

These days the media mostly greets the circus with contempt and outrage. The animal issue has, of course, decimated the traditional circus.

Last week, The Sun, the good old Current Bun, spat its hate at a "Sick" Ukrainian circus in which a bear is made to salute and a sea lion made to look as if he's playing the guitar. Who but the depraved could find pleasure in such degradation?

Clowns are no longer funny, nor even scary but just plain dangerous. This month a young man was given six months for chasing a couple down the street while dressed as a clown. Okay, he had an axe. But you'd think the fact he was dressed as a clown would have flagged the incident up as a harmless teenage prank. I mean, look at that guy in the clown suit - he's just playing around, right? But no. The judge said the fact the lad was wearing a clown mask was "an aggravating factor."

Clearly when you see a clown these days you don't think, "Ha, ha! Friendly, funny man!" You think, "Homicidal maniac! Run!"

At least there's all-human, clown-free new circus to pull circus tricks out of the mire and restore them to a place of respectability -right?

Well, there was. But now the Australian company Circa has caused fresh ire with its plans for a show in a cemetery.

"Abhorrent!" screams the headline on the BBC's website. "Disrespectful," say residents with loved ones buried nearby. "Sacrilegious!" says another.

Just when you thought these new circus Johnnies were almost civilised it turns out they're as bad as those buggers with the lions! Deport the lot of them! Or lock 'em up! Or... or... I don't know... just don't buy a ticket!

Still, there was one interesting thing in the report, and that was a surprisingly concise definition of the difference between old circus and new.

According to one objector: ".They are swinging from trees like acrobats, performing what is in effect a circus act."

I like that "in effect." Even the protesters know modern circus ain't quite circus as we remember it. Which is a fact one of the council bods sponsoring the show as part of Hull's City of Culture celebrations astutely confirms: "This is contemporary circus, which is best described as aerial dance."

I think that's something traditional circus fans have been trying to say for years.

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