Family Antics – Circus Dad and Daughter on Working Together

*Extended interview from one originally published on ThisIsCabaret

Guinness World Record hula-hooper Chi Chi Revolver (China Olver) is set to bring some sparkle and shine to Worthing this month with The Revolver Revue Show.  Her circus spirit has been passed down the family line, so we got Chi Chi and her dad Fred Delius to talk to us together…

Fred Delius and daughter Chi Chi Revolver performing in Fred’s Flying Circus

The Revolver Revue Show is a joint project between the two of you, is that right? CHI CHI: Yes, the original concept was my idea but there was no way I was going to do it without my dad involved!! In fact I’ve got the whole family involved! My step mum designed all the posters and flyers, and I’ll have her taking tickets front of house.  My husband is doing music and lights and my mum and best friend will be stage managing!  Maybe I should change the name to The Revolver and Family Revue Show!

FRED: Yes. This project is brilliantly directed and produced by Chi Chi.  Luckily she has booked me to be the MC for the show. It is always an audience pleaser when, at the end of the show, I point out that we are Father and Daughter!

What have you worked on together in the past?

Chi Chi and Fred in the early days of Ziz Ziz Kaboom
Chi Chi and Fred in the early days of Ziz Ziz Kaboom

CHI CHI: I first started performing with my mum and my dad when I was just three years old. They ran a circus company called Ziz Ziz Kaboom and I played a little dog called “Sparky”.  That’s where it all started and we have been working together ever since. Fred moved to France for about 10 years to run a circus school, but when he returned we began working together full time.

FRED: It’s kind of difficult remembering a time pre-Chi Chi.  We have worked together for so many years off and on.  Since we sold the circus our paths have separated a bit but every now and then we find ourselves on the same bill or doing a festival together.  We still occasionally appear as a double act when many of the old routines reappear!

CHI CHI: In the early days we would hire halls and little theatres, and put on a two-man circus show consisting of clowning, juggling and magic. As this progressed and developed we brought our Fred’s Flying Circus big top. We toured with this tent in the summers for about 7 years, mainly visiting primary schools and living in little caravans. Lovely when we had sunny summers, less so when it’s pissing it down with rain! We sold the big top at the end of 2012. But regularly still work together in cabarets, private bookings and corporate events. Chi Chi How did you progress from Sparky The Dog to a hula-hoop specialist? CHI CHI: I suppose my character has also been a clown.  Even now in my main hula hoop routine I’m very clown-like with over the top facial expressions, and I’m very bouncy and physical.  I was once described as being like a tattooed tigger (from Winnie-the-Pooh) when on stage.  I haven’t been hooping all my life, this came about when on the road in the circus; I became obsessed with training and learning, I’d put in hours every day in the big top.  Before specializing in hula hoop I performed static trapeze, magic and juggling.  Then, from working a lot in cabaret and burlesque venues, my LED hula hoop strip tease was developed. Chi Chi, was there much publicity around your World Record achievement (112 rotations in a minute, whilst suspended upside-down)? CHI CHI: Surprisingly no, there wasn’t.  It all happened rather quickly!  I was contacted by Guinness and asked to set a new world record and before I knew it I had my official certificate confirming I am the worlds fastest upside down hula hooper. I was hula hooping and hanging upside down from a trapeze.

Fred and Chi Chi's big top, sold in 2012 and now home to Circus Pizaz
Fred and Chi Chi’s big top, sold in 2012 and now home to Circus Pazaz

Do you ever miss the Big Top? CHI CHI: Tricky question to answer I think. I miss aspects of it. I miss the hot sunny days living in the caravans, living outside. But then I guess I could just go camping for a week and that would fix that urge! I do miss some of the shows we did.  When we were at our best it was Fred, my husband Sam, Henry the mind reading dog and myself. We got so confident with our show and it was always received so well. I loved that feeling of waiting in the wings under our own big top and knowing we were going to wow them with a really solid good show. But things I don’t miss… Bashing stakes into the ground in the pouring rain. Being away from home for months on end. Wondering where the next shower will come from. Fred, during your time in France, what were the main differences you noticed compared with the UK? FRED: After a few years of working with European circus I became the director of a French National Circus School – L’Atelier pour les Développement des Arts du Cirque, in Montpellier.  Funding was available as a natural course in France, because the government felt responsible to promote circus arts.  In England you were laughed at expecting any funding!

Fred Delius in action

The big difference is the way the French treat circus performers. To the French we are ‘Great Artists’ who deserve respect. To the English I always felt they acted as if something rather unpleasant was entering the room! For example I was used to having to say I was a teacher or something to get insurance for vehicles in England, because insurance companies frowned on performers and saw us as risks! In France my insurance bill went DOWN because they felt we’re serious performers on the road a lot and would naturally take care of our vehicles. I could go on.  Lets just say, in those days, everything was better in France! What are the best/worst things about working together? CHI CHI: Well I’m very lucky to have a very special and close friendship with my father. We have an extremely similar sense of humor and personality, we often know what each other is thinking just by eye contact. So the best thing about working together is that we are both very confident and relaxed when performing together, it’s not stressful and we can have a good laugh! Sometimes we will have gigs at different venues in London but will meet up and travel home together as it’s great to have someone so close to you to share experiences with, and that “gets it”. What was the idea behind The Revolver Revue Show? CHI CHI: I want to bring a bit of sparkle and glamour to Worthing! Worthing doesn’t have a large cabaret and burlesque scene.  So I hope it’s ready for my show!  I just want to create a fun and memorable evening.

Bitter and Twisted for Gypsy Disco
Bitter and Twisted for Gypsy Disco

What acts will be appearing? CHI CHI: Fred is hosting the show, as well as singing – and hopefully I’ll persuade him to do a few magic tricks. We have Brighton based Cherry Bella opening the show with burlesque. I will be performing two hula hoop acts. We have circus duo Bitter and Twisted performing an aerial act and an acrobalance routine. And we have Bruise Violet performing two burlesque acts as well. Alongside all the professional performers, we also have The Cheeky Chi Chis. This is a group of nine women who have never performed burlesque before, but booked onto my burlesque course. I have been working with them each week, teaching them a routine which will close the show. What’s the most important thing you’ve learnt from each other? FRED: Well we have shared unique experiences and we have learnt to rely on each other in front of an audience. But the most important is LOVE! There are few things in life you can be sure of… I know I love my daughter and I know she loves me! That’s the only thing that matters in life.  I’ve learnt whatever happens, I’ve always got Chi Chi. CHI CHI: I’ve learnt that you should always follow your heart and do what makes you happy. I have learnt this from both my parents. My mum, Mim, is also a performer/artist. I never saw either of them go do a 9-5 job, they followed what made them happy and did exactly what they wanted to do. That’s inspiring and makes you realise that you can follow your dreams and be whatever/whoever you want to be.

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