Giffords Circus The Painted Wagon review

Astonishing acrobatics, jaw-dropping stunts and plenty of silly slapstick, Giffords Circus brought the plains of the wild west to the rolling hills of Gloucestershire, with The Painted Wagon reaching dizzying new heights… quite literally.

As undeniable Giffords Circus fans, we’re in good company – with glittering Hollywood stars, members of the royal family and legions of Gloucestershire families also making the pilgrimage to the iconic big top each year. But with The Thunders scoring SoGlos’s first ever five-stars and last year’s Moon Songs upping the ante further, it's fair to say that expectations for the 2016 wild west tour of The Painted Wagon were sky high, as we perched on the second row at Sudeley Castle.

By now, Giffords regulars – and most of the crowd usually are – have come to know, and expect, a certain formula: with the pre-show performance from everyone’s undeniable favourite, Tweedy, always proving a highlight: offering immediate laughs and warming up the audience with slapstick humour, magic, his pet iron Keith and risqué jokes aimed at the adults – dragging a few unsuspecting audience members into the ring for some well natured fun, front row be warned!

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Then it was onto the introductions from Sarsaparilla Sal, the saloon girl played by the splendidly eccentric Nancy Trotter Landry, who makes a welcome comeback this year; and Giffords’ newcomer Spencer Moran as dim-witted, flute-playing Handsome Eddie; before the heat was truly turned up with an impressive performance from horse riding Dangerous Dan, who ran rings – and jumped fiery hoops – around the tent, setting the tone for a mesmerising evening.

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Performances from whip-cracking, gun-twirling, rope-spinning cowgirl Lilian; intricate hoop displays from Nancy Trotter Landry; intermittent mischief from Tweedy and a rogue walkabout chicken all made for a fun first half; with a graceful and effortless gymnastic routine proving an impressive finale – with the best still to come…

Giffords Circus may be a Cotswold institution, but it’s most definitely a world class show.

Back with a bang for the second half, two Giffords’ icons, Ethiopian twin jugglers Bibi and Bichu, delivered a flawless performance, blending choreography and juggling with mind-boggling speed – moving so fast it was hard for the audience to keep up, let alone imagine how they managed it.

The talented twins’ bar was kept sky high with a dizzying aerial hoop act from Duo Lyrical Lyra – a pair of puritanical protesters transformed into sexy, wild-haired and scantily clad aerial performers, whose polished moves were both daring and delicate. And while we were a little sad not to see the bear this year, there is a life-size bison and cuddly wolf both roaming around the ring!

Returning from Ethiopia for its second year at Giffords, the Konjowoch Troupe then took the show to another level still, demonstrating extraordinary strength, athletic ability and acrobatic skills: with the men mastering the gravity-defying heights of the Chinese pole and the girls demonstrating a dexterous gymnastic routine nothing short of extraordinary.

Directed by Cal McCrystal, this year’s show brings the pioneering spirit of the wild west to the rolling green hills of Gloucestershire – and beyond – with true exuberance, expertly combining comedy and a dash of villainy with an atmospheric set, stunning costumes and evocative live music played by the lively, multi-talented house band.

Giffords Circus may be a Cotswold institution, but it’s most definitely a world class show – with The Painted Wagon proving its best show yet.

By Kathryn Godfrey

© SoGlos
Monday 23 May 2016

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