Aldershot, 1st June 2014
The wagons outside may be higgledy-piggeldy but, inside the ticket office – and the bright red big top – Circus Zyair is young, fresh, and smartly dressed. The red theme is co-ordinated through the curtains, swags, wooden benches and cushioned ring-side seats and, later, through the performers’ costumes too. It’s a blazing hot day outside, but the inside of the air-conditioned tent is not unpleasant (at least, not for us down on the ground. I’m sure the aerialists are feeling it up top!)
There is a vibrant and modern feel inside the tent, and Circus Zyair put on a great family show that sees children and their adults leaving inspired to practice their own tumbles and acrobatic stunts on the grass of Manor Park outside.
There’s no concession tent, and the refreshments are served from stands inside the big top. A young lady selling flashing toys reminds us to visit ‘Gorgeous Georgia’ in her glowing candyfloss stall, and Sam Goodburn (who later fills the role of equilibrist clown) is demonstrating the spinning plates on sale. I’m especially impressed with his gentle explanation for the tiny demanding girl next to me whose parents keep allowing her to clamber into the ring. The air smells of popcorn and summer and, when the back-ground pop music moves into the atmospheric sounds of a barrel organ and carnival barker, we know we’re at the circus.
The opening to the show is explosive; a rush of fire and fishnets, with one blazing trick after another streaming into and out of the ring with high energy, dramatic music, and flare. The pacing and variety is excellent, and there is a palpable buzz left in the tent as Tibi Mihalovics and Krisztian Krizsa* hold the small raised stage, exuding cool in their spiked hair, jeans and black vests, for their ensuing hard-man acrobalance routine. The A-Team posturing and movie soundtrack add to the tough guy flavour, with some unusual transitions keeping the brusque choreography alive.
Unicycling clown Goodburn is up next, fresh-faced and full of geeky enthusiasm. He offers short snapshots of juggling tricks – 3 ball toss, 1 foot contact, 5 club toss – and I love the adolescent insouciance with which he chucks down his used props. Lifting his unicycle onto the low-strung tightwire, he demonstrates a breadth of skills that makes me briefly wonder whether he has come up through Wookey Hole Circus school – proprietor Gerry Cottle once remarked that today’s students want to learn everything, rather than specialise – but a glance at the National Award winning artist’s website gives nothing away.
The artistic direction of Circus Zyair’s debut season is full of swift act changes and brief moments to keep attention from dipping. The pre-recorded music snappily brings up the tension, adds drama, or breathes levity.
Georgiana Banuta (Miss Georgia) demonstrates an airborne ease on the Spanish web in this act of grace and flexibility, with a super fast spin to end under strong red lighting. It’s a surprise to see that her sequinned bikini costume is pink once the coloured lights are switched off! An Irish jig accompanies Shaun and Pippa Lee’s speed-whipped diabolo, and the lights here provide a flash and flare of heat in salutes of brilliant white after each trick.
After a wonderful entrée from Goodburn, dressed as an irreverent Harry Potter, and the four enlisted audience dads who are excellent sports and supports (sorry, no spoilers!), the first half finishes with a rather perfunctory cloud swing from Aaron Darnell (as the number was almost entirely directed towards the opposite side of the tent, I wasn’t able to get the full effect that the audience seated across the ring may have done).
The second half lacks the buzz of the first, and Krisztian Krizsa’s nautical Chinese pole begins unobtrusively, but builds to impressive strengths with ‘push-ups’ and rotations from a horizontally held position. Shaun and Pippa’s magic box leaves me guessing, and Darnell comes into his own with his smooth aerial straps act.
Goodburn returns on a unicycle with his popular hopping gimmick, although the gentle pace and musical selection begins to feel like hold-music, and I would have welcomed a punchline or sense of completion to his morning routine of dressing and eating breakfast.
The energy is soon raised to the roof for the finalé of Los Marinos’ high octane Wheel of Death, swooping so close to the starry canvas ceiling that it seems they’re in danger of hitting their heads as much as falling on ours. At every pass I flinch and gasp, trying to control my language for the sake of the small children next to me. Chico Marin’s whoops and calls to his partner and wife Regjani are full of genuine thrill and, when he pulls out first a skipping rope, and then a blindfold, I feel genuine thrills of fear running through me too.
**Credits are accurate to the best of my knowledge, but were difficult to track down, so please let me know if you have any corrections**
*Names adjusted as discovered 3/1/16 back