No Bibi and Bichu, and even a dismal British summer, couldn’t dampen Giffords Circus’ 2017 tour success – with Any Port in a Storm producing big belly laughs and literal tears of joy as it toured across the Cotswolds. The best show yet!
When it was revealed that a clutch of Giffords Circus veterans – including the hugely popular Ethiopian jugglers Bibi and Bichu and kooky ring mistress Nancy Trotter Landry – would be missing from the 2017 tour’s line-up, it would be fair to say that Giffords Circus stalwarts were slightly nervous.
Along with glamorous velvet-clad ushers, dancing horses and collectable Emma Bridgewater mugs, these icons of the sawdust ring had become synonymous with Giffords for more than a decade – and nothing dominated pre-show conversations more than their omission. Just how would Any Port in the Storm weather these big name changes?
Set in the 17th Century Spanish court, the Baroque-inspired show saw the utterly brilliant and occasional bum-bearing Tweedy whip-up the crowd with magic, comedy, tomfoolery and, of course, bucket loads of audience participation. And while Tweedy undoubtedly remains a firm favourite, it was thankfully far from being a one-man show.
While Tweedy undoubtedly remains a firm favourite, it was thankfully far from being a one-man show.
As well as his ever loyal Keith, this year Tweedy was joined in the ring for the first time by Brazilian duo the Mustache Brothers, whose moustachioed mayhem and energetic slapstick (with plenty of heavy-handed slapping and even some suspenders) made for mucho laughs; German clown and diablo maestro David Pillukat returned for more well-natured mimicry; plus two fiery flamencos added even more lashings of zany fun in addition to impressive foot-stomping choreography.
Alongside the clowns, the 2017 tour saw circus-founder Nell Gifford make a regal appearance on horseback; there were tricks aplenty from handsome juggler Dany Reyes; while bare-chested gymnast Sergii Poliakov astounded with his strength and agility whether swinging from a high rope or balancing one-handed on a piano; while magnificent skipping, swinging, human pyramid-balancing came from Cuba’s Sol Troupe. That’s not forgetting the outstanding house band – or ‘performing’ chickens, who almost got the biggest awws from the crowd, if it weren’t for the miniature pony!
Directed again by the steadfast Cal McCrystal, rather than weaving an elaborate narrative, Any Port in a Storm packed in more good old fashioned circus entertainment than in previous years. The lavish costumes were incredible, and there was just enough bonkers bits to remind you this is no normal circus. But it was the finale, the clowns’ condensed version of Any Port in a Storm, which reduced many in the crowd (including me) to absolute tears. Bringing rays of golden sunshine to the sodden Cotswold countryside, it was definitely the most fun we’ve had in a muddy field in a long time and the best Giffords Circus show yet.
Book ahead and after the show finishes dine in the UK’s only travelling restaurant, Circus Sauce. Housed in a nearby tent to Gifford’s big top, Circus Sauce’s menu changes weekly, serving-up three-courses of seasonal British classics (think asparagus and poached Cacklebean eggs, slow-cooked pork belly and Jersey Royals, and sumptuous banoffee pie) miraculously produced in a trailer and served within a beautiful, intimate canvas-covered setting. Plus, there’s a barmy half-time puppet show put on by the chefs!
Bring a cushion! After sitting on a bare wooden bench for a while, your bum will thank you for packing something a little softer.
Tickets for the Giffords Circus 2018 tour are on sale now. Call Giffords Circus on 0845 459 7469 for more information.
By Michelle Fyrne
Sunday 01 October 2017
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