Saturday, February 20, 2010

A Night at the Circus

I love a good circus. Put me in a large tent with a person breathing fire or riding a tiny bicycle across a tightrope, and I'm a happy camper. Something about the combination of daredevil acts, attractive women in leotards, the sense of tradition (after all, circuses have been a form of entertainment for centuries now) and that magical, almost otherworldly feeling that one gets within the tent of a really good circus, captivates me every time. I even like the clowns, if they're good. I rarely get the opportunity to go, however, but try to catch whatever circus happens to be passing through Wexford if I have a spare night.
Last week Circus Vegas were in town, so my wife and I decided to chance it and went. Now, what do you expect when you go to a circus? Acrobats, jugglers, clowns, magicians, trapeze artists, and the like? Of course, you say. You would not say: "I really wish that every second act is some singing duo doing popular hits of the day rather than anything interesting!" But that's what we got at our evening of Circus Vegas. When it started, the duo came out; he a shiny, slick blond guy who looked like a televangelist, she a full-figured dark-haired diva, accompanied by four lissome young women who gambolled around them during each outing, singing 'Viva Las Vegas'. "Grand," me and my partner thought simultaneously, "but I hope there isn't too much of this singing lark." Then, at every bloody interval, out they came again, singing song after song after song (I think they did about eight altogether). It was like watching a particularly bad version of The X-Factor where the same people do every song, and it's certainly not what I go to the circus to see! After the third or fourth appearance my partner and I groaned together and considered leaving, but decided to stick it out until the end as we'd paid for it.
There were, in total, four good acts: an excellent juggler at the beginning; a fine illusionist who sawed his assistant in half, stuffed her into a tiny box and made her vanish, and lots of other very un-PC activities; an accomplished trampolinist who was also a fine comedian; and two Argentine guys who ran about on a huge spinning treadmill (including once blindfolded, which was quite terrifying). And that was practically it, for the nearly two hours that we were there. There were no clowns worthy of the name, only two people who came out in fat suits and did little bar run around the ring, and another few in Disney costume who again did nothing worth mentioning. We had the usual session of dreary audience participation, a troupe spinning flaming ropes who were impressive but not exactly brilliant, and those blasted singers over and over again. And one could sense the audience's lack of response to the whole thing; if I was of a more confrontational nature I would have demanded my money back. Perhaps it was an off night for them, or half their acts had come down with food poisoning the night before, thus necessitating a lot of filler, but based on that evening there is no way I'd see them again, or recommend them to anyone else, without hearing first that they'd seriously upped their game. They have a website here, but it doesn't look like it's been updated in quite some time.
It must be hard to run a circus in these recessionary days, and I don't mind a shorter than average show if they haven't enough acts to fill the bill, or one without loads of props. But I expect value for money at least, and I don't feel I received it at Circus Vegas. So please, if anyone from the circus reads this: less singing in the ring floor, and more swinging above it (with or without a safety net), and I'll definitely attend!


Stan said...

That sounds awful, frankly. When did singing become part of a circus troupe's repertoire? Is it an attempt to mimic TV, or to make people feel better about missing a few hours of vapid game shows?

The last time I attended a circus was many years ago; my then-girlfriend and I saw the Circus of Horrors and had a ball. No singing whatsoever, but lots of chainsaws.

A Doubtful Egg said...

It was really disappointing. Circuses have to move with the times, I suppose, but if I want amateur singing I'll go to the pub on talent-show night! I think it was, as you said, mimicking TV shows, combined with simple cost-cutting, but it didn't work, and the audience were visibly unimpressed. Circuses I've seen recently were Duffy's, who were very good, but I would prefer if they ditched the animal acts; I don't mind acts using dogs and horses, which are domesticated and (in my experience) love work and attention, but seeing a guy with a whip terrorising a wild lion into jumping over stools doesn't appeal to me at all.
Fosset's were also good, if a little too influenced by Cirque du Soliel. They were slightly too many clown acts (the owner's son is a clown, which would explain that).
Circus of Horrors? Sounds like my kind of thing!