Having had a ringside look at the equine stars of Zippos Circus, I can’t completely agree with the animal activists who picket it. Yasmine Smart’s Arab stallions seem healthy and affectionately cared for. And their dancing act isn’t that different from dressage.
Nevertheless, the horses do spoil ‘Horsepower’: it’s a matter of taste but I find it creepy and sad to see such powerful animals doing delicate little dance moves.
Fortunately, for this year’s show, ‘Horsepower’ also means motorbikes, ie Brazilian nutters, the Lucius Team. They ride three bikes at top speed around the inside the roof and walls of the ‘Globe of Death’ – a latticed metal sphere that’s smaller than your average stable. It’s a magnificent piece of daredevilry: I’d run out of nails to bite by the end.
Zippos’s is an old-fashioned family circus with all the trimmings. Thrills, kid-friendly clown routines, risky acts with no safety net and slightly crap popcorn. It is heartstoppingly good fun, which I’d heartily recommend to anyone aged four and up. The aerial acts are a tad tawdry and underwhelming. But Germaine Delbosq is every bit as good as she sounds in the bill, where she’s listed as ‘beautiful girl on a cool motorbike – JUGGLES FIRE WITH HER FEET!’.
The stars of the show are neither bikers nor horses but much tinier creatures. I can’t confirm whether Norman MBE is indeed the ‘world’s greatest ringmaster’, but his budgie act is one of the sweetest, funniest and most belief-beggaring things I’ve ever seen in a big top. His troupe of budgie acrobats somersault, climb stairs and are so madly keen on sliding on slides that they nudge each other out of the way and race back to their little ladder for more.
Still skeptical? Check it out on YouTube, then get down to Blackheath, Sidcup or East Ham to see it for real.