Mighty Boosh man Cal McCrystal directs this old-fashioned family circus
If you’re a Roundhouse regular or diehard fan of Cirque du Soleil or the Chinese State Circus, manage your expectations here. Walking into the family-run Giffords Circus – which has pitched up in the stately grounds of Chiswick House for its first London tour in ten years – feels like stepping into the past.
There’s a strong (and deliberate) sense of the village green about the pre-show experience: a nostalgic evocation of a British afternoon out, nipping into the tuck shop, the smell of popcorn, staff wandering around in band attire and plumed hats… it’s all shamelessly rose-tinted, a middle-class vision of halcyon days.
The show itself, ‘Moon Songs’, takes place in an old-school circus ring, complete with horses, dogs, magic, acrobatics, juggling and a gag involving a cannon. Surprisingly, perhaps, this tradition-fest is directed by The Mighty Boosh’s Cal McCrystal, whose previous form is reflected in Tweedy the Clown’s gurning, foam-faced Man in the Moon.
A twee, bedtime story-style retelling of jugglers Bibi and Bichu’s journey from East Africa to being circus performers in the UK bookends the show, without contributing much. Similarly lacking in purpose is a strange catwalk moment when the Konjowoch Troupe parade hats designed by Philip Treacy.
The acts are fairly tame and the clowning is Chuckle Brothers gentle. But then, this isn’t a show for adults; it’s colourful, bouncy entertainment for families with kids and – judging by the peals of laughter – a fun introduction to circus if you’re the littlest and full of sweets.