Who doesn't remember the excitement of a trip to the Circus when a child? You knew that there would be a colourful ring-master, clowns, acrobats, dare-devil trapeze artists, and some animals doing tricks. All guaranteed to amaze and delight our innocent minds.
When my son was younger, it was a bit of a treat to go to Zippo's when it came to Streatham. The dangerous animals were by then, a thing of the past, replaced by dogs and horses. The impact of the circus was not diminished by this in any way, the big top was packed with delighted, happy, excited children.
When the invitation to review Giffords Circus 2023 show arrived I realised that this was going to be something a little different, it was so pretty and appealing. Greeted by glamorous circus showgirls and a glass of Prosecco as we arrived, the scene was set and our expectations high.
Pre-show, there were several food options to choose from, sweet and savoury filled crepes, or imaginative burgers and hot dogs. My pork belly with a rhubarb sauce in a brioche bun was delicious, if a bit messy to eat. Under canvas there was full blown restaurant, Circus Sauce.
There was also a bar with a decent selection of beers, wines and spirits. For the younger members of the audience there were sweets and candyfloss. You could even buy some memorabilia to take home if you'd loved it enough.
What of the Giffords Circus 2023 show Les Enfants du Paradise?
Set in 1830s Paris it took us on a journey through a disused theatre, with Clair du Lune (Nell O'Hara) looking to find her way in the world. It seems that the theatre might be disused, but it's not deserted, and we gradually meet the characters who still perform there.
Firstly, we met the new clown, who was not welcomed by the resident clown, Tweedy. The audience interaction with Tweedy was every bit as silly as you'd expect, and he seemed to be having as much fun as the audience. That name rang a bell with me, and sure enough Tweedy had performed at Zippo's in the 1990s. I learnt a strange fact too, clowns have to register their clown names and makeup as these are their copyright. That tickled me enough, until I found that the register consists of painted eggs. The clown sends in an image, and two eggs are painted, one for the clown and one for the register.
A mysterious masked man (Antoine Cesar) leaves a rose for Clair and the scene is set for a little romance. He literally whisks her off her feet with his aerial strap skills.
Clair and the artiste ringmaster, Sito Rivelino, join the band 'Quelle Fromage' to provide additional singing which both did with skill and energy.
It wasn't a huge tent, so I hadn't been expecting much in the way of Trapeze or high level work, but I was wrong. The duo who did the aerial hoop work were breathtaking, 'Soeurs des Etoiles' (Marina Alverado De Luna and Marika Ashley Gould), as was Alex Hooper who did a solo Trapeze and Sky Walk.
We were also treated to the engaging Ethio-Salem Arcobatic troupe 'Les Garçons Abyssinia', who just smiled and smiled throughout their act, those boys were having a great time even with a few hiccups with their props.
More thrills came from roller skating brother and sister, 'The Skating Medinis'. I don't think that I could even walk straight having been swung around at such high speed as Asia was.
There were also retro acts, Sergi Buka gave a sweet shadow puppet performance, Amanda Sandow got her English miniature ponies to prance beautifully around the ring, and Romy Meggiolaro foot juggled.
At the very end, when true love had prevailed, the audience were invited into the ring to dance with the circus stars. There were a lot of children made very happy by that offer, and a few parents too!
Our tip for Les Enfants du Paradis
The seats are unallocated on benches with cushions, a lot of the action was directed towards the main entrance to the tent, the performances weren't all in the round, so the best views were from there. Get in the tent early to grab yourself a great spot.
Where and when is Les Enfants du Paradis on?
It's at Chiswick House and Gardens until 19th June 2023 . We recommend a train to Chiswick rather than Turnham Green tube station. It's the same distance to walk, but much more pleasant.
Full details of where it's on after that can be found here: Book Tickets For Giffords Circus 2022 show
Ticket prices - from £10 for children over the age of 3, and from £20 for adults