Giffords Circus

Review in Issue 14-3 | Autumn 2002

We drive into the picturesque Cotswolds village of Little Barrington at dusk. Hand-painted signs direct us to a field where a small Big Top is pitched. Around it the wagons, caravans and trucks create a homely circle that draws the audience right into the heart of circus life.

This feeling of intimacy is integral to Giffords Circus. The tent, with its tiny sawdust ring and close-ranged seating, attracts us like eager children to the window of a sweet shop. The mystery of the delights within is preserved, yet at the same time we are made complicit with the magic. The artists interact directly with the audience and after the final bow the children are allowed to dance inside the ring

The show is a team collaboration, put together over a very short period of time. Nevertheless, each part melds into a flawless jewel of a whole. The acts are simple and delicate. They blend the powerful legacy of traditional circus with a sense of irony that plays with the concept of circus as a world beyond human physicality. So Nell's magnificent high school act is followed by the light relief of a pantomime horse, while M. Lee, the aerial chanteuse, combines strength and grace with comedy – tapdancing on the bar in frilly Shirley Temple knickers.

At the interval, kids clamber around on the swings while directors Nell and Toti Gifford and the dancers weave among the chattering crowd selling programmes and magic unfolding flowers. The feeling is of an extended family tea party, and for those who choose to stay for dinner under the awning of the restaurant wagon to feast on stargazey pie, this careful illusion continues long into the night.

Presenting Artists


Date Seen
  1. Jul 2002

This article in the magazine

Issue 14-3
p. 27