Gifford’s Circus

Forget novels and enlightenment and stuff - my vaulting ambition is still basically to do a cartwheel.

I’ve never been the most acrobatic of Blondes. By the age of thirteen my limbs were already outstripping my nervous system, and my favourite part of school gymnastics was that bit at the end of a manoeuvre (my repertoire is forward, backward or teddy roll) where you stand up, curve your back, and snap your arms over your head – ‘finished!’ I can roll, and I can finish. That’s about it.

Forget novels and enlightenment and stuff – my vaulting ambition is still basically to do a cartwheel. A cartwheel, for God’s sake.

But I love watching FIMO-bodied flippers and flexers, and now that I’m a Bikram convert I carry a tiny, nut-hard conviction deep in my belly that it’s only a matter of months before I overthrow my mind-forg’d manacles and blossom into a Darcey Bussell-Madonna hybrid; so Saturday’s trip to Giffords Circus was an all-round happy thing.

Photo by Andrew Rees

Not that sort. Giffords is a jewel of a show, a unique theatre/circus mongrel created by Nell and Toti Gifford that tours the village greens of south west England in proper, handmade burgundy and gold wagons. In a small white tent, you unexpectedly find an pan-European gathering of performers at the top of their game – acrobats, jugglers, rope-walkers, unicyclists – all brought together in Gifford’s distinctive steampunk style, which teams crumbling Victorian splendour with vaudeville cheek and a rousing, rambling swing and jazz band.

This year’s show centres on Yasmine Smart, legendary circus horse trainer and rider, with all the equine loveliness that implies, from round, bouncing dappled grey ponies to haughtily rearing Arabs. Yasmine: A Musical is possibly less satisfying than last year’s Caravan – the storytelling is confusing and the narrative hook feels arbitrary at best – but it’s deceptively naive magic can’t help but seduce romantics of all ages. Gabor Vosteen is outstanding, both for his five-recorder Mozart routine and for the slapstick charisma marinated into every inch of his shock-haired, preying-mantis frame. The show really takes off when, as with Vosteen, the acting matches the atmosphere.

In a year, I thought, stroking my seedling biceps carefully highlighted with fake tan, I shall run away with you. And I shall do a cartwheel, on a horse, doing a cartwheel. In a forest-green gown. And a hat.

Just you wait.

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One Response to “Gifford’s Circus”

  1. Dagmar says:

    That most aromatic of blondes. Did you see Sebastian Horsley’s funeral in the Standard last Thursday? What brilliant PR for the stage play!

    I see ye hendred have become K-headz. That is my joke. From one hundred to one thousand heads. Yes. But they will not print ye aforesaid hand-made jocularism.

    Old Gabor Vosteen is great! Long live imagino-syndicalism and live performance in this world of cynical, digital, widgetal “cul stuff”.

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