Review: The Great Yarmouth Hippodrome Circus is back with The Greatest Show for Summer
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The smell of candyfloss and popcorn, the festoon lights, the anticipation – the only thing that beats waiting for the Great Yarmouth Hippodrome Circus to begin is the show itself.
It was quite an emotional moment as we heard the unmistakable opening bars to the The Greatest Showman theme song: 2020 was hard, 2021 hasn’t been much kinder, a few hours of total escapism is what everyone needs.
If you have never been to the Hippodrome, if you’re convinced that it’s just not your ‘thing’, I am here to tell you two things: one, you must go this summer, two, you’re wrong.
This year’s Summer Spectacular is a riot of colour, magic, amazing acts, beautiful acrobatics, illusion, fire, water and joyful entertainment: it’s a veritable explosion of circus talent wrapped up in the most characterful building in Norfolk.
In just a few minutes, the tone of the show was set with a stunning opening sequence featuring all the performers, incredible lights and that catchy theme song.
And from that moment on, there isn’t a moment in this show when your eyes aren’t glued to the ring, your jaw dropping open (one benefit of masks at this point is allowing this to happen with a degree of grace) in disbelief.
Fast becoming a Hippodrome favourite, Roberto Carlos’s juggling act is fabulous and he’s such a born performer, the crowd eating out of his hat – or hats, as it happens, as he juggles with a host of them during his performance.
It’s the 12th year that ringmaster and producer Jack Jay has worked with co-host Johnny Mac and they can work a room – socially-distanced or not – wonderfully, a great blend of slapstick, humour and family fun that always feels fresh and exciting.
This year’s line-up of acts is a real treat.
There are illusions from Taylor Morgan (think danger and astonishing disappearing acts) and Scarlet Flame, who also breathes fire, taking multi-tasking to a new level and beautiful routines from the Estelle Clifton dancers.
Sarah Jane Macaggi from Spain takes to the air on the straps and showcases some gorgeous aerial work, making it look effortless when we can be sure it is anything but and there’s the welcome return of the Motorbike Globe Riders who zoom around a tiny spherical cage at such speed you can hardly breathe.
They’ve got a few tricks up their leather sleeves, but I’ve been sworn to secrecy…
The pace changes after the interval, albeit after the infamous Wheel of Death which back in the ring for Summer 2021.
Fabio Santos and Pedro Franco are the daredevils who risk life and limb as they run, skip and dance blindfolded on perilously high spinning wheels as if they were taking a leisurely stroll along the pavement.
As the ring fills with water for the legendary water spectacle (and it is), acrobat Billy George performs a stunning routine, splashing through on a Cyr ring in scenes that reminded me, pleasantly, of Take That’s Back for Good video. Showing my age.
Senayt Asefa, from Ethiopia, appears on one of the elevated stages above the ring to perform a breathtaking contortion act where she twists and writhes in such impossible-looking ways that my eldest turned to whisper to me: “Does she have bones…?” Beautiful, mesmerising, mind-blowing.
And then, just in case you thought it couldn’t get any better, it does. As the finale approaches, Sarah Jane returns on a crescent-shaped moon that lifts into the sky to the tune of Your Song from the film Moulin Rouge as the Estelle Clifton Synchronised Swimmers become mermaids below her.
As Sarah performs with the grace of an angel (and the core strength of a weight lifter) I took a moment to think about how lucky we are: to be watching a show of this quality, to be in one of the only purpose-built circuses in the world, to have got through the last 18 months with (most of) our marbles.
How wonderful life is, with the Hippodrome Circus in the world.
* The Great Yarmouth Hippodrome Circus runs until September 19. All shows before July 19 are socially-distanced and there will be one socially-distanced show a week for the rest of the run. To find out more visit www.hippodromecircus.co.uk or call 01493 738877.