Review: GIFFORDS CIRCUS: AVALON, Chiswick House and Gardens

A fun night for all ages that will leave everyone in awe of the performers' incredible talents

By: Jun. 15, 2024
Review: GIFFORDS CIRCUS: AVALON, Chiswick House and Gardens
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Review: GIFFORDS CIRCUS: AVALON, Chiswick House and Gardens

“Good pilgrims, make some noise!’

Written and Directed by Cal McCrystal, Avalon is the 2024 show for Giffords Circus, a village-green travelling circus that follows the belief of ther founder, Nell Giffords, that “Art is Love.” The tents and caravans feel as though they have been pulled from a classic movie and, as someone who has never been to a circus like this, I was just as thrilled as the kids running around the green. 

We begin the show by being greeted by Merlin the Magician (Maximiliano Stia), who amuses us with some fun magic tricks, including some impressive fire eating tricks and a shocking disappearing act. He welcomes us to the magical isle where citizens of Camelot and pilgrims have gathered to celebrate magic and live in revelry.

Our MC of the night is Queen Guinevere (Nell O’Hara), who performs along with the Gifford Circus Band comprising of Musical Director James Keay and Emma Price, Joe Pickering, David Meredith, Rob Taylor, Morgan Pugh, David Meredith and Nicholas Hann. The group perform a range of modern songs during the show to accompany the acts. Guinevere is assisted by Barold the Page (Dany Rivelino), who tumbles and clowns his way through the show. 

The main character of the show is Cuthbert (Tyler West) who wants to become a Knight of the Round Table. West takes on the role of clown with ease, flirting with the audience and performing a range of silly acts like catching food in his mouth and making fun of some of the other acts in the show. Along with the role of Cuthbert, West also plays the role of the Lady of the Lake, appearing on a live video stream with a background of blue to make it appear like the legendary figure is appearing to us from under the water itself, doing the classic call and response with the audience of “Oggy Oggy Oggy, Oi Oi Oi.” 

Along with the stars of the show, there are several standout acts. Sir Lancelot (Dylan Medini) and Lady Morgan le Fay (Asia Medini) give some great solo performances with rolla bolla and hula hoops respectively, but they are incomprable when performing their sibling act of rollerskating tricks that genuinely had my jaw drop several times. Damsels of the Ring, Isolde (Morgan Ashley Barbour) and Enid (Natalia Victoria Fernandez Ciprian) do some incredible aerial ring and jaw hang work, making the most difficult tricks look easy!

The ruler of Camelot, King Arthur (Nick Hodge), gives performances with both the Cyr Wheel and the corde lisse. Several acts are returning to perform at Gifford Circus including The Godfathers - Serhii Niemtsev as Sir Escanor the Large, Andriy Moskva as Sir Galahad, Nikita Ostrovskyi as Sir Bedevere and Volodymyr Potaychuk as Sir Gwaine, four men who perform incredible acrobatic and balancing feats to roars of applause. 

Another unexpected highlight? Animals! The Lady of Shalott (Latoya Donnert) shows off a trick-perfoming pony, Kelplie, that has been trained by Donnert’s father, Gabi. Lenore and Sir Dagonet (Pip Ashley and Patrick Harrison) present a quartet of delightful dogs - Jimmy, Alf, Guest and Herman - all rescued and living with Harrison in his trailer.

There is an entire section on the circus’ website on the welfare of the animals, with the ponies being trained using positive reinforcement techniques and both the dogs and horses having passports, medical records and accommodation inspected by the local council. Both of the acts involving animals definitely got the most coos from the audience and it was lovely to see circus animals and know that they were being treated with love and care.

But the performers aren’t the only ones involved in the show - there is audience participation as well! In one particularly audience-heavy scene, audience members are chosen by Cuthbert to attempt to pull a sword out of stone, a reference to the classic Arthurian legend. Of course, it is the children that are successful aslo “It’s not about size, it’s about belilef.” At the end of the show, everyone is encouraged to walk down into the ring itself and join in on a dance party before saying goodbye to the cast, a moment that reminded me of the ending ot the Bridge Theatre’s Guys & Dolls

Another aspect of Avalon that must be complimented along with the performers is the atmosphere created by the creative team. The set, designed by takis, is incredibly detailed, especially for a travelling circus, and truly makes the audience feel as though they have made a pilgrimage to a magical world. Each of the costumes, also designed by takis, the performers to do their acts and dance (with choreography by Kate Smyth) with ease while also still looking great.

Avalon is a fantastic circus performance, a fun night for all ages that will leave everyone in awe of the performers' incredible talents. Giffords Circus truly makes you feel as though you have been transported to another world, and it is no wonder that they are so beloved. 

Avalon tours from until 29 September.


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