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Review: GIFFORD CIRCUS' ¡CARPA!, Chiswick House And Gardens

The Mexican-themed spectacular runs until 27 June

Review: GIFFORD CIRCUS' ¡CARPA!, Chiswick House And Gardens

Review: GIFFORD CIRCUS' ¡CARPA!, Chiswick House And Gardens The late Nell Gifford, co-founder of Gifford's Circus, wrote that "a good circus is a sublimely existential thing, living acutely and only for the present moment." And so it is with ¡Carpa! (Spanish for tent), the company's joyful and life-affirming show currently sited in Chiswick House's gardens. From magnificent clowning to acrobatics aloft a horse, knife-throwing to hair-hanging, this show has something for everyone.

The follow-up to last year's Irish-themed Hooley takes its inspiration from all-things Mexico. Catholic saints are invoked in clouds of smoke, high-flying acrobats don dia de los Muertos masks, a six-piece mariachi band plays in the background and characters announce themselves with names longer than a summer siesta. The antics are superbly silly at times but the skills on display - both up in the air and on the ground - are seriously worth of praise.

There are many returning faces among the cast and crew. The internationally acclaimed Cal McCrystal has been at the helm for a decade and over that time has directed theatre, opera and comedy; his versatility and experience are amply manifested as, with ¡Carpa! he produces yet another extravaganza of true wonder.

Resident clown Tweedy (here styled as Tweedy Gonzalez) is the glue that binds the show together and his big dollops of whimsical action are sweet without being saccharine. Opposite him, the Mexican actress Adriana Duch Carvallo as Doña Rosa Florido is the commanding religious matriarch keeping the cast in line and keen for her two daughters to retain their virginity until suitable swains appear.

Both daughters and suitors are, as might be expected, a dab hand in the circus arts. The hair-hanging act from Isabella and Daniela Munoz Landestoy draw gasps and groans in equal measure from the audience. Frankly, even after seeing other artists like London cabaret legend Fancy Chance or the Finnish duo Capilotractées do routines of a similar nature, it's hard not to wince as this pair twist this way and that suspended high above the audience by their long dark locks.

Their would-be husbands are no slouches either. Randy Forgione is a fourth-generation circus performer whose straps work is fluid and expressive while Mexican juggler Gordon Marquez (aka El Mariachi) is an astoundingly talented juggler: unlike some of his ilk, Marquez keeps the number of objects he manipulates low but throws them around a physics-defying speed scintillating to the naked eye.

The above barely touches the breadth of consistently high talent laid out as part of ¡Carpa! (the audience is also treated to acrobatic feats aboard two horses, a Russian swing routine which reaches into the rafters, some eloquent trapeze, a neat bit of knife-throwing and a nifty quick-change routine) before Isabella and Daniela, their grooms and the rest of the troupe treat the audience to a grand finale. There's plenty here for the whole family to enjoy in "the present moment" and to remember some time after.

¡Carpa! continues at Chiswick House and Gardens until 27 June.

Photo Credit: Andy Payne

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