September 15, 2012 in Reviews
Last night I took Microdaughter to the circus. I make a point of trying to spend a little bit of quality time with each of my children where it is just me and them. I think it’s important to them to be able to have their dad to themselves every now and again, and also (and more importantly to me) I get to have them to myself too. Anyway, the circus was in town and Microdaughter had seen them on the green and asked if we could go. I checked the website (http://jaymillerscircus.co.uk/) and saw that they did a 5pm showing on Friday and so bought a couple of tickets. We went for centre tier rather than ringside as I figured she might get a little overwhelmed being so close, and being just behind the aisle meant we had more space and freedom to move.
The time came for us to set off and so, our pockets filled with sweets and drinks, we jumped in the car and went to the circus!
Jay Miller’s Circus has been travelling around the UK for 25 years this year and over that time they have become extremely experienced at setting up an impressive looking façade. The vehicles facing the green were all well decorated and really set the mood for what was to come, the second they came into view I was greeted with a gleeful “I can see the circus!” from the back of the car. Red vehicles and a white picket fence all in the shadow of the red and white big top all added to the atmosphere and whilst the vehicles and equipment are obviously not new it has all been well maintained and the circus staff clearly pride themselves on the way their set up looks.
The Big Top
As we entered through the covered walkway (a nice touch if it happens to be raining) we were greeted by the box office manager who checked our tickets and then we were shown to our seats by one of the girls who were obviously going to perform later. We settled ourselves in and then Microdaughter noticed that there were lots of things for sale. I’d anticipated exactly that and so I was well prepared and had brought a little cash along just in case. One spinning LED windmill and a giant bag of candy floss later we were back in our seats ready for the show to start.
When I was a child back in the mists of time I remember going to the circus on a number of occasions. I remember the brightly painted tiered wooden benches and I remember how much fun it was to drop things down through the gaps so I’d have to drop down under the seats to go and fetch them. With this in mind we’d sat near the front on the lower benches, and as we waited the other seats slowly began to fill. There were only two rows of ringside seats and so we were closer to the action than I expected – Something to bear in mind if you’re looking to save a few pounds on ticket prices – and after a brief warning the lights dimmed and the show began.
The first act was Ross, the Ringmaster signing and dancing with a number of girls, one of whom had shown us to our seats earlier. Whilst Ross isn’t the best singer I’ve ever heard he’s pretty good, and his charisma helped a lot, the girls were all pretty and can dance well. It was a nice way to open the show and Microdaughter was mesmerised.
The acts continued thick and fast with juggling, balancing, acrobatics on the trapeze, and some very impressive hula-hooping from Jody, one of the daughters of J. Miller himself. Microdaughter was most impressed however by Peppi the clown, a loveable figure who played off against the Ringmaster very well indeed. In general I’m in two minds about clowns, it’s all too easy for them to come across as patronising, or even worse downright creepy, but Peppi’s performance was pitched perfectly. A mix of incompetence, mischievousness, and lovability make Peppi a joy to watch.
After a brief interval where Microdaughter became Microtiger courtesy of Peppi and his face paints the show began again.
The second half was similar in theme to the first, Joel on his unicycle, more acrobatics and the world’s biggest slinky all made an appearance with more of Peppi in between. There was a surreal moment when Peppi and Ross suddenly started asking the crowd “Where’s Wally?” only for us to find that he was indeed sitting in the audience with his stripy top, floppy hat and black framed glasses. The second half seemed shorter than the first, but as the whole thing came it at just under two hours that wasn’t necessarily a bad thing. Microtiger is pretty mature for her age but she is still quite young and two hours is about her limit.
There isn’t a lot that I can say that is negative, but there are a couple of points I should mention. There are a lot of things to buy and the circus staff are very skilled at making their items seem absolutely vital to children, so if money is a little tight, or you are taking a number of children I would bear this in mind. However everything is reasonably priced and despite me being a completely soft touch I still spent less than £10 on the pair of us even when you include the face paint. The other possible negative is that the benches aren’t the most comfortable. They aren’t cushioned and two hours can start to feel like a very long time. On top of this they certainly aren’t designed for tall people. If like me you are over six feet tall you might be better off paying the extra couple of pounds for ringside seats which are proper chairs.
Jay Miller’s circus has been around a long time and it shows in their professionalism. As circuses go it is relatively small, but this works in its favour making it seem intimate and bringing you closer to the action. The acts aren’t world class, but without exception they are skilled, entertaining, and enjoyable to watch. They work well together and the individual performances are long enough to be impressive whilst not be so long they are boring to small children. The whole thing was drawn together well by Ross the Ringmaster, but the star of the show, at least from the point of view of Microtiger, was Peppi. For me the most impressive was Monika’s archery display, closely followed by Charlotte Miller’s (the eldest daughter) rope acrobatics only nine months after suffering a fractured pelvis.
Both Microtiger and I had a fantastic time, and whilst Jay Miller’s Circus has very little in common with the circuses of my youth that involved lions and tigers (though no bears – Oh my!) it was in every way a lovely example of a part of our culture that seems to be fading into history. Even if the acts weren’t fantastic (and they are) then it would be worth seeing just for that. As it is I’d be hard pushed to recommend it more. Just make sure you take a cushion with you!