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!