Theatre review: Giffords Circus: Caravan / Tackley, Oxfordshire

Tackley, Oxfordshire

The circus has changed a great deal - and for the better - in recent years, and companies such as No Fit State are signposting the way for British outfits keen to combine circus skills with narrative and emotion. Giffords, a tiny 300-seater circus that tours village greens and commons during the summer, offers a tantalising glimpse of another route.

Caravan is an exhilarating clash of cultures. It is as if a rural hiring fair straight out of Thomas Hardy had suddenly been invaded by something exotic and eastern: addling ducks and fat rabbits rub shoulders with Hungarian herdsmen; the traditional moocher of English country lanes (Tweedy the clown in great comic form) bumps into a French brass band; Russian acrobats turn up at an English village wedding.

In truth, although there are plenty of awe-inspiring wonders, the skill levels are those that you would expect from any professional circus. But it is the wonderful intimacy, the engagement with the audience, the wistful emotional texture and the way that it is framed that makes it so enchanting. This must be the only circus in the world that references Hamlet and The Winter's Tale, while the sexual tension of a meeting between a lady on a horse and a falconer, causes thoughts to drift towards Lady Chatterley and her gamekeeper.

In fact, it is all good, clean fun. It is brilliant for any age, in that it wears its intelligence lightly, and offers a strong aesthetic that conjures both an apple-cheeked Englishness and the vivid colours and sounds of the east. I loved it, and the night after I saw it, I dreamt about it, too.

· Ends tonight. Then touring. Box office: 0845 459 7469.


Lyn Gardner

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Piccadilly Circus Circus – review

Over two hundred international circus artists wittily redefined Londoners' relationship with the centre of their city, writes Lyn Gardner

Lyn Gardner

03, Sep, 2012 @1:26 PM

Theatre review: Gothic Circus/Plug'n'Play / Shunt, London

Shunt, London
An installation of kinetic sculptures and an 'end of civilisation' cabaret don't impress Lyn Gardner much

Lyn Gardner

16, Jan, 2009 @12:01 AM

Article image
Kin review – mortifyingly funny new-wave British circus
Deadpan comedy, athletic tumbling and the politics of men behaving like performing dogs drive Barely Methodical’s latest show

Lyn Gardner

24, Apr, 2016 @2:16 PM

Article image
La Soirée review – raucously enjoyable, sex-obsessed circus
Ping-pong, knife-juggling and witty stripping save the show from sniggering adolescence, writes Michael Billington

Michael Billington

12, Nov, 2014 @12:19 PM

Article image
Puffball review – an LGBTQ circus brimming with love

With a cast including a man trapped in a trampoline and a performer unwrapped like a butterfly, this is a transformative evening, writes Lyn Gardner

Lyn Gardner

29, Apr, 2014 @12:35 PM

Article image
La Strada review – Fellini's ragtag circus comes to the stage
Sally Cookson directs a fine ensemble in a witty and inventive high-wire production with a modern edge

Michael Billington

01, Mar, 2017 @1:30 PM

Article image
Catch Me review – high-flying friends reunite for cartoonish circus tricks
Flip FabriQue’s circus skills dazzle as they deliver 75 minutes of pleasure but the show’s sole female performer is reduced to playing a stereotypical role

Lyn Gardner

24, May, 2017 @10:07 AM

Article image
Scotch and Soda review
With its lederhosen-clad acrobats and jaunty music, this hour-long show is merely a festive diversion, writes Mark Fisher

Mark Fisher

02, Dec, 2014 @4:01 PM

Sugar Beast Circus | Theatre
The Roundhouse, London
This is a remarkable, spine-tingling piece exploring the theatrical possibilities of circus, writes Lyn Gardner

Lyn Gardner

15, Apr, 2010 @9:35 PM

Monteverdi's Flying Circus | Opera review
Bridge House, Warwick
The circus performers may be superfluous, but the astonishing music stands alone, writes Andrew Clements

Andrew Clements

28, Sep, 2010 @9:00 PM