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."

Circus Mania Extract 1

The Mail on Sunday called Circus Mania "A brilliant account of a vanishing art form." In this extract I describe the fateful meeting at Britain's oldest circus building, the Great Yarmouth Hippodrome, that introduced me to the dangers of the sawdust circle.

Eva Garcia
Her life and death in the
sawdust circle inspired
Circus Mania

Eva Garcia performs on the aerial silk. It’s a graceful act, equal parts artistic and gymnastic; a gravity-defying ballet performed in the air high above our heads. Climbing two broad but fine bands of silk that hang from the roof of the Hippodrome, she throws figures and strikes poses, letting go with her hands and trusting her weight to the silk as she rearranges it in loops and coils around her waist, a knee or ankle.

Eva is a stunningly attractive woman, whose green eyes and exotic features are evidence of her mixture of Spanish, English and Irish blood - and, perhaps more than anything, circus blood. Her suppleness in her red and white costume belies her 38 years. In the spotlight, to the stirring music of the Hippodrome’s closing theme, Time To Say Goodbye, she makes her routine look effortless.

In the cold light of a Great Yarmouth morning, Eva reveals the life of hard knocks and loneliness behind the glitter.

“There are a lot of good things about the circus,” she says in her strong Spanish accent. “But then there are a lot of bad things. It’s very tough, mentally and physically. You really have to love it to live in the circus.”

Eva Garcia
- tragic star of the
aerial silk
Already that week, Eva had suffered bruises because the humidity was making her hands slip on the silk. Earlier in her career, injuries had forced her to change from a wire walking act in which she performed back summersaults no other woman attempted.

Yet, despite the scars, dislocations and operations, and the danger she is too superstitious to talk about, the modest, warm hearted performer has no intention of giving up a life she has led from the age of seven and which has been in her family for over a hundred years.

She has, in fact, just ended a nine year relationship in favour of a nomadic existence travelling all over the globe, often driving alone at night with all her worldly possessions in the caravan behind her.

“He wasn’t in the business and he could never handle me going away for months at a time. But I couldn’t give up my life. I’m still too young.”

Estimating she has another ten years of performing ahead of her, Eva says the main change in circus during her lifetime has been in the area of presentation.

“The music, the lights, the costumes are all part of the act. If I still had the wire walking act nowadays, I would present more and wouldn’t do as many hard tricks.”

The Great Yarmouth Hippodrome
A picture from Circus Mania of
Britain's oldest circus building where
Eva Garcia gave her final performance
With a laugh, she concludes, “You still have to have good tricks, but these days you don’t have to kill yourself.”

It’s a good quote, and it comes out in The Stage the following Thursday. Whether Eva gets to read it, however, I don’t know.

The day after the interview appears, Eva falls thirty feet during her act. She dies instantly. In shock and grief, the Hippodrome is closed for the weekend. But, in circus, as in showbusiness, the show must go on.

For the rest of the season, the Valez Brothers continue to dance and jump and gyrate on their rotating Wheel of Death. Vladislav - ‘The Man Who Can Fly’ - grips thick straps in each fist, twists them two or three times around his steely wrists and soars like Superman through the glittering fountains.

Meanwhile, all along the prom, Eva gazes with a Mona Lisa smile from the gaily coloured posters that depict her in one of her poses on the silk. Her unreadable eyes silently remind us that there is no computer generated trickery in what her colleagues do, nor are the risks they take for our entertainment anything less than real.

The word bravery is bandied lightly in the arts. Often it refers to nothing more daring than an unusual choice of song. For the circus breed, it is a nightly way of life, and, sometimes, death.

Click here to buy CIRCUS MANIA - The Ultimate Book for Anyone who Dreamed of Running Away with the Circus.

Watch Circus Mania author Douglas McPherson talking about Eva Garcia and other stories behind the book.

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