Review by Rosie Holmes
The smell of popcorn, hot dogs and candy floss fills the air in Chiswick Gardens, but these are not the only treats in store in West London – Giffords Circus are back again with a new show, Les Enfants Du Paradis. Now entering is 23rdyear, Giffords Circus once again proves exactly why they are one of the best circus companies around.
Inspired by the romanticism of Parisian performance, the show transports us back to 19th century France in a performance as enchanting as it is entertaining. Tweedy the Clown, who has recently been awarded BEM for his services to circus began proceedings, equipped with an iron called Keith and plenty of ensuing chaos. Tweedy was a clear hit amongst the audience, high energy and the exact kind of ridiculous silliness that’s needed when you visit the circus.
The highlight for me was Les Garcons Abyssinia, an Ethio-Salem Hoop Diving and Chinese Pole Troupe whose unfaltering energy, jaw-dropping stunts and dare I say incredibly camp dance routines had me genuinely smiling ear to ear. The troupe performed several routines, both as impressive as the other, their cheerfulness and energy infectious throughout the audience.
Other highlights included Antony Cesar as Antoine César, a fifth-generation circus performer, who dazzled with an aerial strap routine that was mesmerising and impressive to watch, displaying extraordinary strength and beautifully choreographed moves. Also in the line-up were the Skating Medinis who performed a high-speed, exhilarating skating routine, something that wouldn’t look out of place on Britain’s Got Talent. Most impressive was the tiny platform they skated upon, highlighting the absolute control they had over the moves they performed. Another standout performance was from Marika Ashley Gould and Marina Luna who together performed a dreamlike aerial hoop routine as the Souers des Étoiles, that took my breath away in a routine that displayed their wonderful talents and extreme dexterity.
Tying the narrative together were Michael Fletcher and Nell O’Hara as Hugo Victor and Clair De Lune, almost acting as our ringmasters for the evening. Both were wonderful actors, but I was most surprised to hear their gorgeous singing voices. Nell O’Hara was enchanting as she sang in French, and a duet between them of ‘I Dreamed a Dream’ from Les Miserables was worthy of any West End show, even with Tweedy the Clown creating chaos around them. Live music was performed by band Quelle Fromage, tackling a range of songs from classic French, to musical theatre and… ABBA (yes!). If I’m honest I would pay to go and see just the band again, their presence definitely elevated the performers acts, as live music often does.
Direction by Cal McCrystal ensured this show was never a stop-start piece, as can often be the case with circuses or variety pieces, the whole piece was beautifully tied together, never stopping for breath and even equipment transitions were done with a flourish, often without even the audience noticing.
It is not only the acts that were breath taking, but the multitude of details throughout the evening made Giffords Circus a wondrous night out. The set ensured that the audience were transported to a dreamlike world, with huge moons, chandeliers and clouds creating one of the most stunning sets I have ever seen. Similarly, costumes by Takis were beautiful, particularly the dresses worn by Clare de Lune and the collection of sequin costumes worn by the whole company which helped create a dazzling finale. Lighting and projection was heavily used, creating a dream-like atmosphere amongst the stars as well almost disco-esque lighting that had the audience on their feet. In addition to all of this was the beautifully themed and drinks stands, merchandise stands and the live music during the interval which meant you felt like you were part of a different world all evening and not in leafy West London. Even the programme was one of the most beautiful I have ever seen, full of gorgeous artwork. All these details absolutely transported the audience, allowing all our troubles to be left behind as we become immersed in the world of the circus.
Whilst the evening was magical, one element of the show I do wish had not been included was the use of ponies. They were certainly a hit with the audience and they were absolutely beautiful, however I can’t help but feel their inclusion was not quite right. Having read about the use of animals in the show, they are clearly well looked after but it still doesn’t quite sit right with myself or the friends I attended with that these animals were performing for us. In fact, the ponies were the least impressive part of the night, not bringing the same breath-taking and dream like qualities many of the other acts did.
That being said, Giffords Circus production of Les Enfants Du Paradis was still one of the most magical and enjoyable performances I have seen in a while. I think the thrill of the circus is the tangible feeling that anything really can happen. The audience are simply there to be entertained and marvel at others and Giffords undoubtedly achieves. Les Enfants Du Paradis is beautiful, enchanting and simply a work of art. It’s a show in which everyone will witness a little bit of magic.
Les Enfants du Paradis by Giffords Circus plays at Chiswick House and Gardens until the 19th June before it continues its UK tour, tickets available here- Buy Giffords Circus 2023 Les Enfants du Paradis Bookings Tickets online - Giffords Circus (digitickets.co.uk) Buy Giffords Circus 2023 Les Enfants du Paradis Bookings Tickets online - Giffords Circus (digitickets.co.uk)
Photos by Rachel Louise Brown