Giffords Circus – ‘Moon Songs’: until September 20

Giffords Circus - 'Moon Songs', 2015

Giffords Circus - 'Moon Songs', 2015 - Credit: Archant

Candia McKormack spends an evening in the company of the magical Giffords Circus

It was a marvellous night for a Moondance.

Driving down Cotswold lanes on a May evening, with the froth of cow parsley in hedgerows, I feel the buzz of excitement as I see the hand-painted signs pointing the way. It’s Giffords Circus time again!

The title of this year’s production is ‘Moon Songs’, drawing inspiration from the 1902 French silent film ‘Trip to the Moon’ by Georges Méliès, with the iconographic man-in-the-moon of the movie replaced reassuringly with the face of Tweedy the Clown. Brilliant.

In his wonderful madcap way, Tweedy recreates his ‘moon-face’ throughout the show by hopping into a box, covering his face with what looks like foam from a stage custard-pie (a favourite weapon in every clown’s arsenal), and having his face projected onto a large pale disc for the audience’s delight. By doing so, he acts as a kind of narrator for the show, but is thankfully released from his box to also play a sideshow gypsy fortune-telling automaton, do a hilariously funny cigar box-juggling routine, get involved with other acts, and even be thrust into a man-size cannon. Does he become a human cannonball? Well, you’ll just have to go along yourself to find out.

The story starts with two Ethiopian brothers in bed – a young Bibi and Bichu, Giffords’ favourite jugglers – dreaming of coming to England to join a village green circus. We follow them on their journey, meeting other performers along the way: the astonishing Abyssinian Aeronauts; elegant aerial and hula-hoop artist Kata Kiss; Jolly Jack David Pillukat and his daring diabolo; horse riders Danny Cesar, Dan Fortt, Emma Beresford and, of course, Nell Gifford; and cheeky chap with an errant moustache, Odoroff the Great Maximiliano Stia. All backed by the wonderful house band.

Part of the fun of this production is seeing how many moon-themed songs you can spot throughout the evening: I got ‘It’s Only a Paper Moon’, ‘Alabama Moon’, ‘What a Little Moonlight Can Do’, ‘Moonlight Sonata’, and ‘Bad Moon Rising’, but I’m sure you can do better.

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And if you’ve never seen a brown bear riding a pony before… Pah! You haven’t lived. Now, at last, I have something to tell my grandchildren.

And, as the sun set behind the vintage wagons in the grounds of Sudeley Castle and handed lighting duty over to the crescent moon, we were all invited to join the performers in the circus ring for the traditional end-of-show dance… and snow fell in our hair and on our faces. It was magical, but then weaving magic is what Giffords Circus does…

… and every year I fall a little deeper in love with Giffords.

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• Giffords Circus’ ‘Moon Songs’ will be at various locations across the Cotswolds until September 20. Tickets are £22 adults; £14 children (no charge for children under the age of three, but they must sit on a lap). Visit www.giffordscircus.com for more details and to book shows. Box office: 0845 459 7469.

• To make a full evening of it, book seats at Circus Sauce, Giffords’ 60-cover travelling restaurant, where fresh, locally-sourced food is served under canvas by candle- and fairy-light. Supper is £25 for adults (age 14 and over), and £12.50 for children. Call the box office or visit the website to book.

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