Theatre review: Zippos Circus - Celebration
- Gareth K Vile
- 4 July 2016
Traditional tricks from around the world
Hosted by Norman Barrett, MBE, and featuring acrobats from Timbuktu, Italy and Mongolia, Zippos represents the classic big‐top experience. Although the animal acts are less dominant than in the past – budgies have replaced tigers and cats, elephants – the thrill of the aerial routine and the skills of the tumblers keep the dramatic tensions high.
Duo Galaxy's Wheel of Death ends the first act with an appropriately death‐defying display of bravado, and Romy Michael's foot juggling is surprisingly spectacular: Alex Michael's aerial daredevil routine offers tension and precision, as he marches across the roof of the big top, upside down and held in place only by loose straps and thigh muscles. While the structure of the show is awkward – the most dramatic moments are concentrated in act one, leaving the second a little underwhelming – the constant stream of spectacle and ability maintains the carnival atmosphere.
Of the animal acts, both Roseline and Nora's Pussycats and Barrett' budgies are charming – Barrett appears as a kindly yet curmudgeonly school‐master to his birds' unruly trickery. The muted audience response to the equestrian acts – despite the acrobatic skill of the Borissov family – does suggest, however, that larger animal acts are not as appealing to contemporary audiences.
Zippos has established itself as 'Britain's favourite circus' (as the website insists) by presenting excellent artists from around the world, but also evoking the traditional atmosphere of the travelling circus. Clown interludes, tight acrobatics and costumes, the smell of hay and audience participation: Zippos is a self‐consciously nostalgic trip with added modern thrills and skills.