REVIEW: Giffords Circus: My Beautiful Circus – touring until September 30, 2018

Nancy Trotter Landry and her talking turkey

Nancy Trotter Landry and her talking turkey - Credit: Candia McKormack

To celebrate the 250th Anniversary of the birth of circus, the Cotswolds’ own Giffords is back with a new tent, freshly-painted wagons, glamorous outfits and talented extended family to throw a summer-long party you’ll never forget, says Candia McKormack

Giffords' newly-painted wagons

Giffords' newly-painted wagons - Credit: Candia McKormack

You know how when the sun shines after a long winter and everyone’s transformed? It’s like a universal light being switched on inside each of us; you catch a stranger’s eye on the street and there’s a smile of recognition… they’re feeling it too, and things are looking decidedly brighter. Yes, it’s transformative, and I’ve realised tonight it’s almost exactly the same effect Giffords Circus has on us. Walking away from the big top as the sun sets on the Cotswolds, listening to the buzz of happy voices and seeing the smiles on faces, the world’s a better place at this moment.

I’ve been going along to Giffords shows since its inception, and each year it feels more and more like being part of a big, crazy, beautiful extended family. Long-lost cousins and eccentric uncles appear every now and again as if from nowhere, bringing with them exotic accents and near-supernatural party tricks, and instantly they’re embraced into the fold. Faces come and faces go, but the family is as close-knit as ever. And on this, the 250th Anniversary of the birth of circus, it’s never felt stronger.

At the heart of this family is the breathtaking Nell Gifford – she of fierce spirit and heart of gold – and her troupe of trusted magic-makers, including director Cal McCrystal, composer and musical director James Keay, horse trainer Dany Cesar, and everyone’s favourite clown Tweedy. And this year I’m particularly pleased to see the return of the brilliant Nancy Trotter Landry… and – YES! – her incredible talking turkey.

New faces to join us are Cuban Lisandra Austin on the silks – how I love those heart-in-the-mouth drops! – and the daredevil Cretu Troupe with their stunning springboard skills. Curatola Brothers bring a brilliant blend of comedy and hand acrobatics, while embracing the 1930s aesthetics with their suave good looks; and Diana and the Dancing Dachshunds has the packed tent aah-ing at their antics as they snake their way round the ring, nose-to-tail, and perform their synchronised routines… with a couple of rebellious numbers (which makes them all the more adorable).

Dany Reyes impresses with his juggling and cigar-box skills, before being upstaged by Tweedy (just when you think you know of all his skills, it appears he still has a few watts tucked away under that bushel of his); and things get decidedly bonkers on more than one occasion when his ‘lightweight towing caravan’ is wheeled into the ring, spewing out jugglers, acrobats… and a life-size ‘bear’. This is Giffords, after all.

The whole show is, as always, edge-of-the-seat stuff – prepare to give yourself up to laughter, sharp intakes of breath and knuckle-chewing – but one of the most astonishing things of this year’s offering is the incredible Dias Family. After being treated to a near-impossible ladder act by the two sisters, their brothers follow up with one of the most fantastic acts I’ve ever had the privilege of seeing… I can’t put into words what they’re capable of; you’re just going to have to see for yourself. It may sound like a cop-out, but trust me on this.

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As with last year’s show, at the end we’re all treated to a brilliant summing up of what’s gone before, but this time it’s Tweedy and Nancy who perform their own renditions of the daring deeds. Expect a few surprises… nothing will prepare you for it, and my lips are sealed!

I wish I could give credit to each and every member of this wildly creative family individually, but their numbers are growing (pick up a programme at one of the shows and you’ll see just how) and, besides, they’re a combined force that needs every part equally to create the magic they do. And the audience is a big part of that… so please do make sure you go along to experience Giffords this summer and help weave your own magic into the show. The smile you share as you leave will keep us all going until September and beyond.

My Beautiful Circus is touring until September 30, 2018. Visit for full details.

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