All eyes on me, in the centre of the ring…
just like a …
Emil stands in front of me, grinning.
The spotlight that has followed him makes the audience melt away around me.
‘It’s the hair’ he tells me. ‘I wouldn’t have picked you if it weren’t for the hair…’
He holds his hand out and I have to take it.
Light and laughter follows Emil around the ring, as it has done since the lights dimmed and the show began. He guides me to two other unwitting participants and stands me beside them. None of us know what is going to happen next, so I figure I’ll just have to trust the Clown.
I can hear Ryan’s booming laughter somewhere in the darkness, I pressed my phone into his hand before I was taken from my seat, a quick instruction to film this – if only so I can be part of the laughter afterwards.
Just smile and trust the clown, I think.
He grabs my hand once more and leads us into the ring.
‘You’re the star now!’ He beams.
The Big Top has always fascinated me, since a child on the festival circuit, my brother and I often took part in circus school in the day times. The lights, the smoke, the colours of it all…The last day at a folk festival in Scotland, years ago – a gypsy girl followed us out of the tent and asked us if we wanted to join them…
Since then my memories of circus school have faded, but stepping into Circus Funstasia’s Big Top reminds me of the childlike delight that is inside. The hard work too, as Nia takes our tickets and welcomes us in.
We take our seats, and Lily’s eyes are wide as she takes it all in. She watches the face painting in the centre of the ring, two girls charming the children who come down for a closer look.
It’s here I learn the names of everyone in the show, I was given a brochure and flick through wondering what the show will entail. I’m happy to learn that no animals will be in the show, and as the main lights dim and the coloured ones seem to brighten – I realise how sad live animals are brilliantly replaced by the charm and showmanship of each performer who takes the stage.
Nia, from the ‘door’ (or is it a flap?) I learn, is the daughter of the directors. She seems so comfortable walking into the ring, and it’s easy to be entertained by her juggling act. Lily approves, and loudly exclaims ‘Wow !’ when Nia whizzes around on a hover board whilst juggling.
Emil then appears, he had been running through the crowds earlier, playing up for the children, making the adults laugh too. He takes a space next to Nia and they become a juggling act together. The batons are on fire, and it’s impressive, the first act already showing that the circus isn’t just for the younger kids.
The aerialists are both beautiful to watch, and awe inspiring, I look down to Lily, taking in their strong, capable bodies and being shown that both strong and beautiful, go hand in hand.
It’s clear throughout how hard each player in this show works, every movement is done with thought, every new act to enter the ring is done seamlessly. Every act also has their own soundtrack, and every move is done in perfect sync with the music accompanying them. I look around the audience, and each one is sat open mouthed. Myself included.
My favourite act has to be The Wheel Of Death, walking in to the Peaky Blinders ‘Red Right Hand’. Two wheels, two men. It feels dangerous before they even jump in, but as the wheel whooshes round – from where we are sat it seems to go right over us, blowing my hair back with every turn, the men inside jumping as it goes, I fight flinching back, especially as they brandish skipping ropes each, and begin to skip on the wheels. One of them, I’m not sure if it’s Nikolay or Ivan – gets his foot caught on his rope and all of us gasp. But the act continues, and I’m not sure if it was a trick or a genuine slip. Either way, when the wheels come to a halt – you could bottle the adrenaline filling the tent.
There’s a brief intermission. Welcome for those with young kids for toilet breaks, or food – hotdogs, burgers etc. I get some popcorn for Lily, because it all feels like part of the experience! Tracey, the director and now in her red hat and coat with tails – the Ring Mistress, pops over to say hello – and ask me how I got my hair so pink. I tell her, but here it is again – it’s ‘L’Oréal Colourful Hair, in ‘hypnotic magenta’!’
Busy scoffing popcorn and discussing the acts with Ryan, I notice Emil the ‘Geek’ clown act rushing through the crowds, he is followed by laughter and light again, it’s impossible to imagine him without the circus tent atmosphere around him – without a doubt he is the star of the whole show. A natural showman, the same stage presence one might alude to Freddie Mercury, but with quick, vintage style slapstick – like Charlie Chaplin.
He moves through the crowd, bantering with Tracey. Then randomly selecting first – a tall lad, who reluctantly moves to the front of the seats. Then another tall guy, who has a slight more bravado as he comes to stand beside the first. I watch Emil run around the seats, searching for someone else to make fun with…
When he’s there, standing in front of me, laughing and pointing – first to me, then to where he’s standing. Oh fuck.
‘It’s the hair’ he tells me. ‘I wouldn’t have picked you if it weren’t for the hair!’
He leads the three of us into the ring, gesturing for us to take three separate spaces. I panic briefly, I have no idea what is about to happen. Will it make me jump? Will it make me look like a total idiot. Probably.
I accept my fate, and decide to not let the side down. I can hear Ryan and Lily cheering for me from the darkness beyond.
He should have chosen Ryan, I think.
Emil hands us each an instrument, one at a time, and instructions, so fast I immediately forget them. The audience laugh at each one, as both boys before me lamely attempt it. The second lad, with the bravado – flicks his drumstick up and catches it again. The audience laugh, but Emil is quick, and allows the laugh – it’s still his show, but we are his players. It’s my turn now, and I go for it, but Emil trips me up, mocking me to the crowd – it’s part of the fun and light-hearted, I’m laughing too.
I might be sweating my tits off, but dare I say – it is fun. As the act continues, Emil appears from behind the curtains, as who else ? Freddie. A queen song booms through the tent and Emil swaggers around the ring, iconic yellow jacket and moustache on, inviting us to join in as instructed.
Emil picks off the two lads as they don’t perform to his tastes, and takes them out of view. Waving a toy gun as they disappear. I turn and make a face to the crowd, worried for my own fate, but Emil bursts back through and guides me to the middle. ‘You’re the Star now!’ He tells me, so I have to act it.
‘Yeah…Whatever!’ He yells out, much to the audiences glee, and takes me behind the curtain to meet my fate. Everyone is behind there, smiling and laughing. Emil presses the toy gun he has threatened us all with into my hand.
‘Now go out there, and wave it around.’ He instructs clearly, just as the curtains part and I have to strut out there, mimicking the star himself. The audience screams with laughter, and before I have a moment to realise I am stood in the centre of the tent, spotlight beaming on me, alone…
Emil brings out the boys and we all take a bow together – I’m not sure who has had more fun, the audience, Ryan and Lily – who I could hear cheering me on throughout, her tiny voice over everyone else’s, myself…or the circus at our expense!
I return to my seat shaking like a leaf, and with a newfound admiration for every single person who steps into the brightly lit circle below. That was brilliant.
‘You were great’ someone behind us tells me, patting my shoulder. Thanks!
The show ends with the Globe Of Death, something for Ryan to enjoy, he sniffs the exhaust fumes and everyone has their heart in their throat when the motorbikes inside become three, speeding around the tiny globe as it shakes.
Then another well choreographed dance among all the stars, ring mistress and crew included. They’ve done so well, and we clap them as loud as we can in thanks.
All in all, I haven’t even scratched the surface with how brilliant the show is, if you haven’t been to the circus, then Circus Funtasia is definitely where you should begin!
It was a 10/10, an absolute must-see.
Here’s their Facebook page – for future dates !
And Instagram – @circus_funtasia!
As always, follow me on Instagram, if you haven’t already! @rocknrollmother_
To everyone at Circus Funtasia, including you Rosie, who found me and invited us to watch – Thankyou !