erinnorman (erinnorman) wrote,

Santus Circus, From Paris to Peking (and luckily England)

Saturday we went to the circus! It was Alex’s first ever, and my first in a long time. We’ve allowed some other travelling circuses to pass us by because of concerns over animal welfare issues. Much to our delight we saw that Santus Circus is full of vastly entertaining Homo sapiens. (I’m sure that Chinese dragon is happy with his work...)

Santus Circus, “From Paris to Peking” has all of the honest charm of the original circuses, but with some awesomely modern acts added to the traditional. It was not a sterile, clockwork perfect show, the likes of which you might see in Las Vegas or Dubai. It was better. It was real, raw, beautiful, amazingly talented; and it was right here on my local patch.

We’ve got to stop equating polish and big PR budgets with talent and worth. The Santus stars were magnificent and clearly have worked very hard and very consistently. The languages spoken amongst the performers and crew are Chinese, French, German, Romanian, Bulgarian and English; they manage to communicate with gestures & broken English. Despite the sextuplet language barrier they work together remarkably well. In circus life everyone works double duty, everyone helps pitch the tent, sell the tickets and pop the popcorn.

Perhaps one of the most magical things about Santus Circus is that unlike watching an act in a casino or on television, we the audience, are sharing an incredibly intimate space under the Big Top with the performers. Barely 20 feet away from our ringside seats the most entertaining, out of the ordinary things were happening!

The artistes were made of sparkle, flesh and bone; feelings of camaraderie and awe were jostling within me for dominant space. When the juggler once dropped a pin he handled it with great panache; he performed the trick again, then twice more with extra pins, to much applause. You can see their intense concentration, you can see them break into a smile of pure exultation when they’ve pulled off a stunt perfectly, and your heart soars right along with theirs. As they worked I caught myself wishing I could know them, be one of them, be their friend. I felt privileged to be watching so many talented people entertain with their very selves.

In the interval the Chinese dragon stood in the ring and for a small price Circus staff took photos of audience members with him, to be printed and delivered at the end of the show. Alex was very keen on the idea, and wanted to stroke the shaggy beast, but upon getting closer he got cold feet. The Ringmaster, Ernest Santus kindly took him by the hand and led him to the dragon, and the photo was taken of the three of them together. It is a lovely picture that I will always treasure for happy memories.

All of the acts are worth describing in depth and I suspect each person will come away with their own favourite. For Alex it was the slapstick clowns and their rather surprising piano. We all loved the Chinese Nanle Troupe who did amazing acrobatics with precision timing as a 10 strong team. You couldn’t see Santus Circus without losing your breath watching Duo Galaxy perform the Wheel of Death; he is the only artiste in the world who walks on the outside of the wheel on stilts!

Being a naturally sedentary person I had never understood the appeal of wanting to run off and join the circus. I have seen other circuses before, and enjoyed myself. This time though, I got the magic, and I got it with a vengeance. It was beautiful; beautiful in its humanity, its fun, its excitement, its daring and its perseverance. I’ll be seeing Santus Circus again next week in Clacton. I’m considering turning up with baked goods as a bribe; I want them to take me with them.

I attended the show on the large green attached to Bay Tree Garden Centre in Stisted, Essex. The stands were only sparsely occupied by punters; it made me sad not only for the Circus but for the locals missing out. Perhaps they drove past and thought it was just another entertainment. As a society we’re jaded, broke and bored. I spoke to Clunky the Clown aka Andrew Clinch, Circus Administrator , who said that over the last two years there have been fewer people turning up and more people economising when they get there (less souvenir buying and cheaper seats). I have to say, the value for money was brilliant; the show was two hours long and it was far more exciting and unique than going to the cinema. How many people waste money on text messages sent to useless talent competitions meant only to line the pockets of major networks and media moguls? It’s a shame that we live in a tabloid, D-list celebrity obsessed culture, yet this great show is struggling.

Part of the problem the circus faces is conveying to the public just what they’ll be getting for their money. They don’t have a large marketing budget or a slick PR firm behind them, and there is only so much that can be expressed on a poster or leaflet. Word of mouth and the wonders of social networking seem to be what’s in order, so please pass these details on to your blogs, facebook and twitter. Much of what we spend is wasted, invisible money, but I can assure you a trip to Santus Circus is not.

Below are the details for Santus Circus’ appearance in Clacton this week. After that the Circus will be in Heybridge, near Maldon. Next look for them in Kent and London, details are updated on their website 2 weeks in advance.

West Road Car Park
Beside Airfield
Clacton on Sea
Essex CO15 1AG

From Wednesday 28th April
To Monday 3rd May

Wednesday 28th: 5pm
Thursday 29th: 7.30pm
Friday 30th: 5pm and 7.30pm
Saturday 1st: 3pm and 6pm
Sunday 2nd: 3pm and 6pm
Monday 3rd: 3pm only

Travel info: Bus: 3, 10, 11 Nearest Rail: Clacton

For information / reservations: 07843 884 787 or 07952 418 487

First day only special offer - all seats £5
Adults: £8, £10, £14
Child / OAP: £6, £9, £10

Tags: acrobatics, artiste, clowns, entertainment, nanle troupe, santus circus, talent, wheel of death
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