Touring since 2002, Giffords Circus stands as one of the most unique cultural events in the UK. The circus returns this summer, ready for audiences to immerse themselves in two hours of chaotic fun, extraordinary talent, and pure joy! Located at the stunning Chiswick House, the gardens have been decorated with large white tents and red caravans, serving refreshments and merchandise. 

Credit: Rachel Louise Brown

The circus kicked off with Tweedy the Clown, who played an audience participation game involving bells and Lidl sellotape?! While slapstick comedy isn’t my usual go-to, I couldn’t help but enjoy Tweedy’s ability to engage with the crowd; both young and older members of the audience were captivated by his antics and it was a great way to introduce the famous Giffords Circus. Be cautious during “sweetie time” –  you might find yourself unexpectedly showered with lollipops as Tweedy and friends enthusiastically chuck sweets into the audience.

This year’s show, directed by Cal McCrystal, is named Les Enfants du Paradis which they openly admitted has nothing to do with the romantic French film of the same name, but is set in the period of 19th century France. However, I feel this theme isn’t consistently clear throughout, and the acts lacked a cohesive theme to tie everything together. While Hugo Victor and Clair de Lune (Michael Fletcher and Nell O’Hara) may have worn vintage Parisian attire, the other performers and even the band seemed to be dressed in contrasting styles. 

Giffords Circus hosts an amazing ensemble of performers, who showcase their unique skills. From ethereal acrobats gracefully soaring through the air to the exciting Ethio-Salem pole troupe, each act showcased their incredible talents. The roller-skating sibling duo, ‘The Skating Medinis’ wowed the audience with their tricks, while Sergi Buka’s shadow play was ironically peaceful to watch amongst all the circus chaos. One act that stood out was Antony Cesar’s mesmerizing aerial strap performance. I was in awe by their effortless acrobatic moves, while suspended in the air. What made their act even more amazing was the seamless integration of contemporary dance moves, making the overall performance an absolute beauty!

Credit: Rachel Louise Brown

The band, dressed in angelic white, had impressive vocals and acted as a whimsical chorus, providing sound effects for the comedic moments. takis, world renowned opera designer, designed the dilapidated theatre set for the circus. The staging is simple, with the centre stage naturally commanding attention. I couldn’t help but notice the candlelit right side of the stage remained largely unused. It appeared more like a holding area for performers during the acts. 

One aspect of the show that left me feeling uncomfortable was the use of animals. It seemed unnecessary and, in my opinion, shouldn’t have been included at all. Reading through the programme and seeing the overall visual design around the circus, it’s evident horses play a big part in the Giffords legacy. Unfortunately, I didn’t enjoy this part of the show and I found myself eagerly waiting for it to end.

Even with this setback, it is clear Giffords Circus remains a fun family show, that has been captivating audiences for over two decades. The finale was so joyful and heartwarming, as the audience sang and danced in the middle of the stage. The atmosphere alone lets you know that Gifford Circus is a traditional event, loved by all. 

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Giffords Circus is on in Chiswick until the 19th of June – you can find info on more dates and tickets here!

{🎟 AD – PR invite – Tickets were gifted in exchange for an honest review}

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