Zippo's Circus presents Gold
If variety is making a comeback, then the humble big-top circus remains its most glorious venue. Free face-painting before the show, the chance to be photographed with a cute pony, audience participation through a comic remake of Star Wars, motorbike tricks, a man in a top hat charming budgies into acrobatic tricks, a woman dangling from ropes and troupe of dancing horses: now that the classic animal acts have disappeared, Zippo's Circus manages to shove more spectacle into two hours than a season of Britain's Got Talent.
Gold is not just for children – although a child-like appreciation of stunts and tricks will help – and ringmaster Norman Barrett (MBE) runs the show along at a fair clip. The first act finale – acrobats from Kenya – would shame most Fringe cabaret slots with their pace, daring and precision: the grand finale, involving motorbikes, an iron cage and a brandished disclaimer signed by the artists, is more heart-stopping than Alan Cumming's unravelling as Macbeth.
There is a rare moment of intimacy when the budgies' routine evokes a specialist act from the vaudeville, but the grandeur of the circus's ambition is most clearly embodied in the majesty of Yasmine Smart's horses: the heavy rock soundtrack, the enthusiasm of the audience and the apparently magical skills of the jugglers, the limbo dancer and trampolinists merge into a jolt of vitality and fun.
Like cabaret, circus has become a source for experimental theatre's quest to regain a primal energy: on its own terms, however, it still has a unique passion and power. [Margaret Kirk]