Hippodrome Christmas Spectacular review: 'We've never needed the circus more'

To the left, comedian Ben Langley wears an elf costume while to the right Hippodrome Circus host Jack Jay wears a teal...

Jack Jay and Ben Langley at the Great Yarmouth Hippodrome's Christmas Spectacular 2020 - Credit: www.streetviewmarketing.co.uk

After the horrific year we’ve all had, the circus is the perfect antidote: magic, glitter, daredevil acts, laughs, acrobatics, big musical numbers, light shows, fireworks, thrills, spills and a balloon so big it can swallow a human.

For an audience with Zoom fatigue, the sheer joy of being back seeing live entertainment (safely, it goes without saying, the audience has been pared back to a third of what it usually is and social distancing is in place) had me welling up at points.

I have missed live performances and seeing actual 3D people SO MUCH.

Circus performers gather in the ring for the finale of the Great Yarmouth Hippodrome's Christmas Spectacular

The finale at the Great Yarmouth Hippodrome Circus's Christmas Spectacular - Credit: david@streetview-marketing.co.uk

All hail the Jay family for refusing to give up and for having safely opened in Summer, at Halloween and now at Christmas: we’ve never needed the circus more than in the last few days of the worst year most of us can remember.

You can lose yourself entirely in this fast-paced festive show and forget what lurks outside that famous building in the not-so-magical real world: and what a fantastic gift that is this Christmas.


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Without an interval to avoid crowds gathering in communal areas, the show runs for around 75 minutes and it’s absolute non-stop entertainment: it’s a skill in itself when you fail to spot the changeovers between acts which normally happened when everyone was out of their seats buying popcorn.

 The Estelle Clifton Swimmers shown swimming in or jumping into the Great Yarmouth Hippodrome's swimming pool

The Estelle Clifton Swimmers at the Great Yarmouth Hippodrome - Credit: david@streetview-marketing.co.uk

In addition to the resident Estelle Clifton Dancers and Swimmers – always a treat – artist coordinator Christine Jay has gathered performers from around the world to bring a kaleidoscope of jaw-dropping acts to Great Yarmouth.

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This year we have the Danyer Troupe from Cuba and brothers Serik and Askata from Kazakhstan with eye-boggling aerial acts, the lightning fast Macaggi Duo’s skating act, Antonio Candela with a laser show and Svilen from Bulgaria and Alejandro from Argentina risking life and limb on the infamous Wheel of Death.

Circus performer Svilen hangs from the Wheel of Death act at the Great Yarmouth Hippodrome Circus

Performer Svilen hanging off the Wheel of Death at the Great Yarmouth Hippodrome Circus - Credit: david@streetview-marketing.co.uk

Norfolk’s comedy favourite Ben Langley is back in the ring after his first season in 2019 and he’s so at home at the Hippodrome that it feels like he’s been there forever.

He and host Jack Jay have a wonderful rapport and the pair are such natural physical comedians: there’s a routine that involves Ben and a giant balloon which had me laughing into my mask so hard I almost inhaled it.

Circus performer Pavel Valla rides a 9m high unicycle

Pavel Valla on a record-breaking 9m wheel high unicycle - Credit: david@streetview-marketing.co.uk

Pavel Valla Bertini performs a gravity-defying act on the largest unicycle in the world – it’s nine wheels high and a World Record Breaker – and manages to manipulate smaller unicycles with more dexterity than any of us mere mortals could hope for on two wheels.

The Caratola Brothers with their hand balancing act at the Great Yarmouth Hippodrome Christmas Spectacular

The Caratola Brothers with their hand balancing act at the Great Yarmouth Hippodrome Christmas Spectacular - Credit: david@streetview-marketing.co.uk

The Caratola Brothers from Italy perform a hauntingly beautiful hand balance act (I spend the whole thing worrying about their backs and necks, but that’s because I am old and dull) and there is a beautiful cloud swing act from Lucy Candela.

Circus performer Sarita Macaggi on the aerial straps above the pool at Great Yarmouth Hippodrome Circus

Sarita Macaggi's beautiful aerial act above the Great Yarmouth Hippodrome's swimming pool - Credit: www.streetviewmarketing.co.uk

My favourite of all, however, was Sarita Macaggi's beautiful aerial performance over – and into – the famous Hippodrome swimming pool, quite the best act of this kind I have ever seen, I couldn’t take my eyes off her.

As the circus ended complete with huge musical number, incredible lighting (kudos to Ben Jay), fireworks and enough Christmas spirit to blast 2020 into space, my husband and I felt quite emotional that we’d been part of something so exciting, so spectacular and so ALIVE.

After a year when we’ve been so restricted as to what we can do and where large-scale entertainment has mainly involved sharing a picnic in a bitterly cold park with up to five other people, the Hippodrome’s Christmas Spectacular feels even more special than usual.

More than that, it’s a snapshot of what we hope 2021 will hold in store. More live entertainment. More shared experiences. More fun. More life.

·      This show, which runs until January 10 2021, can only be booked through the Hippodrome’s ticket hotline on 01493 738877.

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