We were ridiculously excited when we heard Zippos Circus was coming to Guildford. Six year old POD has never been to the circus before and I’ve not been for many years. The 2017 production from Zippos Circus, which has been touring the UK since May, is entitled ‘Jigit!’. It refers to Jigitovka – a specific type of trick riding which is popular with Cossack riders and acrobats. We were intrigued to see what it would be like but hoped the show would provide edge of our seat excitement. Minus any scary clowns of course.
Obligatory popcorn purchased, we headed into the Big Top and took our seats. Emilion Delbosq was first act to appear, a modern day ‘clown’ who a nerdy demeanour and an uncanny resemblance to funny man Lee Evans. Entertaining and quick witted, he warmed up the audience in no time and made everyone feel at ease. The Timbuktu Tumblers who burst into the ring afterwards got a great reception as they dived through hoops and formed human pyramids. POD was quite taken with them and was already out of her seat loving the show.
It was after that everyone got to see the ringmaster. Norman Barrett MBE is a veteran British circus ringmaster who has appeared on television in the past and is well known for his act with performing budgies. When he was a bareback rider, he was famous for his Ben Hurr performance which saw him stand astride two horses while others ran between his legs in the opposite direction. Norman has worked with all the great circuses including 25 years at Blackpool Tower Circus. He’s been ringmaster for Zippos Circus in England and Scotland for the last 16 years.
Introductions out of the way, trapeze artist Miss Kimberly appeared in the ring next wearing a sparkly red outfit. We’d heard she would hang from her ankles with no safety wire or net beneath her but she looked more than comfortable. Miss Kimberly was a graceful trapeze artist who thrilled from start to finish, she was excellent.
Having had a taste of Emilion Delbosq already, his bumbling comedic character appeared again. This time surprising us by blowing smoke rings after his rubbish collecting (intentionally) didn’t go to plan. These weren’t just any smoke rings either – they first came from a little bin then a much larger one. A modern day clown for sure and everyone loved him.
As the lights in the Big Top dimmed, Odka appeared – initially reminiscent of a butterfly flapping its wings. She is in fact an expert hula hooper, if there’s such phrase, who gave us a brilliant display. Firstly with hoops on each arm before having so many around her body, she looked like a human slinky! Emilion and Norman the ringmaster had some fun together after that, maybe even got the giggles, and it was clear throughout the show they have great chemistry.
Argentinian Bolas, Los Carmonas del Sol, raised the roof when they appeared on motorbikes and then started drumming! What followed was a demonstration of their immense bola skills. If you’ve not seen bola, or boleadoras as its known in Spanish, before it’s a type of throwing weapon with weights on the ends of interconnected cords. The timing of the group was impeccable and it was quite amazing to watch. POD found some of it very loud but was suitably impressed with them. Next came knife throwing with husband and wife team Toni and Nikol who are from Prague. Their act has been passed down through generations of circus performers and Toni even uses his grandfather’s knives. Knife throwing always makes me feel a little uneasy but they were excellent and no near misses which is always good.
Back at Zippos Circus for the first time in three decades were the Khadikov Cossack Riders. This 15 minute equestrian performance is quite astonishing with riders demonstrating their acrobatic capabilities while on a horse. Jigit means brave or skilful and the cossack riders were certainly that. We saw them hang by the side of the saddle beneath the horse, under the horse’s tummy and get back in position again – all while the horse was circling the ring.
The Zippos Circus show is two hours long in total so there was a 15 minute interval. POD had wanted a spinning plate at first but we opted for candy floss in the end which was huge – bigger than her head! The record-breaking juggler Nicolas Souren was first in the ring after the break. Juggling with balls and batons, the Belgian moved onto rings handling too many to even count. Most impressive of all was that he managed to collect them round his neck from the air. Norman and his budgie show was a delight, POD especially liked it when the budgies misbehaved and kept returning to a little slide.
The acrobatics in the show were just brilliant and we really enjoyed Juma the contortionist. He could twist and bend into the most unlikely positions. Most impressive of all was when he put his entire body through an un-stringed tennis racket, it was quite remarkable. POD has renamed him the “the bendy man” because he really was. We got to see more of Emilion Delbosq after that. He re-created a Star Wars like scene and brought in three members of the audience to play a part. It really was hilarious fun watching all of them attempt to copy Emilion.
Germaine Delbosq, one of the Argentine Bolas, then reappeared on her motorbike. Little did we know she is a talented foot juggler too. She was excellent, at one point juggling with not just with her feet but her hands too. One of the people helping her out was Laci Fossett who had his own act straight afterwards. Laci comes from Britain’s oldest circus family, free falling from the top of the tent suspended just by straps and his own body strength. He was amazing to watch, especially when he was dangling so high above us.
If that wasn’t exciting enough, the finale at Zippos Circus was the Globe of Death. These Brazilian daredevils from the Lucius Troupe loop the loop on motorbikes in a globe. With emphasis on the Jigitovka theme, they kick off with two motorbikes, adding a further three (so 5 bikes in total) to give a breathtaking performance. It was astonishing to watch, especially when they picked up the pace riding faster and faster. What an end to what was a truly brilliant show. We absolutely loved Zippos Circus. It was so well done, the performers were all excellent and it was non-stop excitement from start to finish.
Disclaimer: We received tickets to the Zippos Circus in Guildford, Surrey for the purpose of this review. Opinions are as always our own. Zippos Circus is in Guildford until the 26th September 2017. Check the website for information on the remaining 2017 tours in Bath, London (Finsbury Park), Coventry and Brent Cross.