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 2

The Mail on Sunday called Circus Mania "A brilliant account of a vanishing art form." In this extract I describe my first visit to a traditional circus under canvas, the Great British Circus...



I look around and realise that the rows of tiered seats behind me are going to remain empty. Mr and Mrs Wood and the whole Wood family, as circus folk describe a tent with more empty furniture than patrons. But as the lights go down it ceases to matter. In a theatre, you would feel the emptiness of a

Circus Mania author  Douglas McPherson
with one of the last elephants to perform
in a British circus
poorly attended house, sapping the atmosphere. The big top, by contrast, seems to close snugly around us, emphasising only our proximity to the ring and the impending action. The sense of anticipation is palpable. I can feel the excitement not just in myself but those around me, especially the little kids, who are standing in front of their seats in expectation. I can see it in those opposite me, on the far side of the ring.

The spotlights converge on the closed dark red velvet curtains - the ring doors. Behind a desk off to the side, Lacey puts the music on - and that’s when something extraordinary happens.

Inside the big top
- Circus Mania takes you there
The music is Entrance of the Gladiators, the 100-year-old circus theme tune that, next to Happy Birthday To You, must be a contender for the most recognisable piece of music on the planet. Few might know it by title or be able to name its composer, the unfortunately surnamed Julius Fucík, but say “circus music” to anybody and they’ll dum-dum-dummy-dummy-dum-dum-da-da it to you with a smile on their face.

It’s a piece of music so predictable that a modern, cirque-style show wouldn’t play it in a million years. I should find it unspeakably naff - or, at the very least, ironic and amusing. But within the big top, with the trampled mud, the sawdust and the whiff of horses and camels, it hits me harder than any piece of music I have ever heard. 250 years of tradition, the circus magic, call it what you will - it hits me like a train.

Even typing this a month later, just remembering that moment brings a lump the size of a tennis ball to my throat and I feel the tears welling up behind my eyes.

This is the real deal, that simple little piece of music says to me. This is circus, undiluted and unashamed. It’s down, it’s marginalised and there’s not much of it left... but it’s alive, it’s powerful and it will live on.

Buy Circus Mania direct from Peter Owen Publishers, Tel: 020 8350 1775

Or click here to buy Circus Mania from Amazon.

No comments:

Post a Comment