Zippo’s Circus is like a brightly coloured tin of shiny sweets: gaudy, pleasureable and unexpected. It’s like it promises on the tin: naughty but nice.
The circus tent itself is the first pleasure: the cheerful colours, the stripy roof, the bright lights, the excellent sound system and the smell of grass underfoot. We are sitting in South Park, after all.
Costumes next. I loved the way that everyone from the programme sellers to the ushers, the artistes and the ringmaster contributed to the carousel feel of the afternoon. They looked splendid. I particularly liked the spangly Pierrot outfit of the lady clown (Italian Rastellis), and the ringmaster Norman Barrett MBE’s change of tail coats.
For the audience, many of whom were families with small children, the magic started before they reached their seats. Waving neon windmills and fluorescent wands they watched each act with eager concentration. While some of the smallest found time to nap, their parents and older siblings enjoyed the ringside atmosphere to the full.
Acts were as varied as toffee and strawberry cream. We saw wonderful whirring displays of acrobatics: the ease and grace of the tumbling Kenya Boys, their variations on the human pyramid and their sense of fun was terrific. A flaming limbo bar placed lower and lower was a highlight
Apart from a cute black and white dog which sat up and begged, played dead rolled over, and climbed up on his master’s feet to balance on his raised legs, the only animals in the show were horses. They were Summer’s Liberty horses. Their coats gleamed, their manes and tails were big like 70s hair and they performed their pirouettes and Champion the Wonder Horse rears very competently. They looked in magnificent condition. Their pink martingale collars deliver the beautiful arched neck of the performer, controlling the horse’s head height .
Acts of considerable physical strength and suppleness were seen: a graceful lady twizzling around and around high above the ring, held only by a head support; a male performer with great upper body strength and balletic routine who dazzled us with his athleticism; an extraordinary lady from Central Asia who emerged, pink limb by pink limb from a bottle, and then bent herself into impossible looking conformations, for anyone with a back bone. Yet she did it – and how!
For sheer jaw dropping disbelief, Bulgarian strongman Kremena wowed us by walking inside – then outside – a giant rotating drum. If this wasn’t suspenseful enough, he donned stilts – and finally a blind fold. At one point he almost touched the apex of the roof – and still he balanced on top without a safety net – easily thirty feet from the ground.
Brazilian motor cyclists revved into the Globe of Terror – round and round: one, two , three and then four. A fifth member stood inside as the motorbikes accelerated up and over the meshed walls. It was high octane entertainment, and a splendid afternoon’s fun.
The only naughty bit was my certain knowledge that I could not live a touring circus life, nor subject myself twice a day to feats of such daring – and danger. But oh, had I enjoyed the spectacle. Thank you Zippos! Look forward to the 2016 line up.