From the moment I was first told about Giffords Circus, they captured my heart. They are a modern day village green circus whose passion for their art is foremost. Founded by Nell Gifford, they are now in their tenth year. There are so many remarkable things I could tell you about Giffords, not least that Nell and Toti welcomed twins Cecil and Red earlier this year who both appear in the show dressed in vintage style bonnets. Theirs truly is a story of inspiration and one I hope to see continue for decades to come.
This weekend we went along to see them in Marlborough for a much anticipated birthday treat for Grandpa. From the moment we set foot on the Common the circus atmosphere surrounded us, as we walked towards the big top the sound of the fairground organ drifted over the field towards us. There were performers in baggy britches and smart red liveries selling programmes which contained the show music and words as well as show details.
A top tip if you want to be in the front row is to get there about half an hour early with the other folks in the know – bear in mind there is an entrance on either side of the tent so if there is only one queue head to the other side. We were seated in the back row which didn’t compromise our view of the performance at all but Milla (our three year old) chose to stand to get a better view. Seasoned audience members had brought cushions with them for the wooden seating.
This year’s show is a musical based on the life of Yasmine Smart, born and raised in the circus she is the grandchild of the legendary showman Billy Smart. The show charts her life from childhood to the present day. From aÂ young girl being caught out playing with the performers by her glamorous tight rope walking mother, to an adolescent forced into long socks but finding a love of training horses through to the present day where Yasmine herself presents three Arabs dancing at liberty.
The whole show is sewn together with a score which was deliciously jazzy and performed by a stupendous band of players and singers. The music was beautiful, playful and pulled you into the magic of the show. Inspired by the life of Yasmine the music pays homage to the swing music of the 40s and has influences including the Andrews Sisters and the scat singing style. We couldn’t help dancing in our seats and it is worth noting you can buy the soundtrack during the intermission and afterwards.
The acts were all outstanding, surprising and delightful. After seeing the daring yet graceful exploits of the tight rope walker, Sarah Schwarz, Milla has been practicing to become a tight rope walker herself. Other acts included acrobatic juggling, musical duels, a unicycle on a giant ball as well as Gabor Vorsteen who can do amazing things with a recorder culminating in playing five at once. One of the final acts gave Milla the willies, Les Frere Taquins is a world famous mime act, a man seemingly made out of wood and brought to life. Her concern didn’t last long as the physical comedy of the performance won her over. The acts weave in and out of the story of Yasmine and entertain on every level. The humour in the show reached even the youngest audience members and the atmosphere in the tent was electric with excitement. While it is not a circus with big bangs there is no doubting that every minute was enthralling and my wriggly 18 month old sat through the entire show completely engaged. My timid Milla even took the hand of a performer to go and dance in the ring at the end of the show – I have to admit to having a sentimental tear in my eye as she did.
The current tour has only a week or so left to run and you can catch up with them in Cirencester from 4th – 12th of September. I can not wait to see what they have in store for their next tour and will be staking out the box office for news of dates.
Without hesitation I recommend you make a date in your diary to see Giffords Circus, I would even go so far as to say that if you’re not within easy reach of the South West it is worth planning a holiday around. This is the kind of family experience lasting magical memories are made of whether you are young or old.
All photos by Kat.