REVIEW: Giffords Circus, Xanadu on tour

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Lil Rice performing in Xanadu. Photo: Gem Hall

Steve Sutherland reviews this year’s Gifford’s Circus show Xanadu, which is touring throught the summer. Book tickets here

We’re talking about time, and how it ain’t what it used to be.

Time was when time was a tough thing to fill. It moved at a slower pace. It meandered.

But with the onset of mobile communication, there’s no time left; the mystery – and, yup, the misery – of hanging around in the proverbial dark for something or someone has been eradicated by the supply of instant info gratification.

The context of these cosmic musings is a discussion being held with the cast of Waiting For Godot which happened back in February at Cheltenham’s Everyman Theatre. Indeed, the performance had actually been interrupted by someone’s phone going off, one of the actors halting the (in)action, walking to the lip of the stage and saying,”You’d better get that. It might be Godot,” to much applause.

Anyway, the question has been raised as to the play’s contemporary relevance in a digital age when no-one waits anymore and the director is informing us that playwright Samuel Beckett’s estate are sticklers for not a single word being cut from the text. They even, he tells us, provide instruction as to the timing of the delivery of the lines. And here, he admits, he’s cheated, speeding up the pace to placate a modern audience low on patience.

And it’s now that something splendid occurs. One of the actors spontaneously picks up the narrative and explains that the production hasn’t actually broken any covenants because, “we’ve saved up all the pauses and tacked them on to the interval.”

Genius! Sheer genius!

That’s Tweedy for you.

Tweedy, in case you didn’t know, is a bit of a local hero. The comedic mainstay of Giffords Circus now for more years than even he can remember, incredibly he gets funnier and funnier with every passing season, regularly adding to his considerable repertoire so we get the familiar catchphrases – “Oh, it’s all dirty!!!” – plus ever more daft and dangerous pratfalls.

This year he’s an errant kitchen assistant on the lam from a furious chef which, without giving too many jollies away, let’s just say culminates in one magnificent gunge fest. Then there’s his moustachio-ed biker, roaring along to Born To Be Wild as his machine disintegrates beneath him until he’s left to achieve the impossible and ride around on its well mangled chassis. Absolutely terrific stuff, as is his naughty Mama Cass as part of the ensemble’s cack-handed tribute to The Mamas and The Papas.

We should mention that 2019’s Giffords is called Xanadu and is a musical themed around a Summer Of Love Happening in London’s Hyde Park in the early 1970s, so the costumes are exotically hippie, the music well trippy and the language totally far-out, man. It is, of course, no one-man show. There are a troupe of muscular acrobats called The Havana Circus Company, Jacob D’Eustachio who’s a pervy American juggler, Lil Rice who serenades us while gyroscoping in a hoop, Michael Fletcher, a handsome scouse compere with an eye for the ladies, and, as is tradition, some breath-taking horsemanship courtesy of the Donerts from Hungary.

Seasoned Giffordites like we Suthos still pine for our past favourites like long lost old friends. We miss Bibi and Bichu, the jugglers last seen in Tim Burton’s new Dumbo movie, we wonder where, oh where, is The Bear, and the bloke who unicycled back and forth on a high wire serenading us with classical violin. Ah, memories, memories…

Still, there’s always Tweedy effortlessly carrying our weight of expectation as we take these new acts into our hearts.

Go visit Giffords – it’s the grooviest two hours you’ll spend all Summer.