Find­ing a ring of truth to cir­cus an­tics

The Leader (Nelson) - - FRONT PAGE -

I have some ques­tions about cir­cus life.

Firstly, who does the cook­ing and clean­ing? Do they have des­ig­nated ca­ter­ing staff, or does the strong­man also make the stroganoff? Is there a ros­ter sys­tem? Are the per­form­ers re­spon­si­ble for wash­ing their own out­fits, or do they con­tract out to a lo­cal laun­der­ing ser­vice, giv­ing spe­cific in­struc­tions about se­quin man­age­ment?

Se­condly, what is the pay scale? Is it based on the num­ber of min­utes on stage, or the skill level in­volved? Is it tied into the vol­ume of ap­plause, or a quota of ac­cu­mu­lated oohs and aahs? Is any­one paid dan­ger money? (If not, that hu­man can­non­ball needs to talk to his union.)

Thirdly, how many dif­fer­ent roles do peo­ple have within the show it­self? Did a cos­tume change trans­form the jug­gler’s as­sis­tant into the soar­ing mis­tress of aerial silks? Did the clown later don a mo­tor­cy­cle hel­met to test his mor­tal­ity in the Globe of Death? Was that re­ally the ac­ro­bat I saw sell­ing minidonuts at in­ter­mis­sion?

The tour­ing We­ber Bros Cir­cus set up at Sax­ton Field about three weeks ago. I wasn’t go­ing to bother at­tend­ing, on the ba­sis that my nerves can’t re­ally han­dle any sort of sus­pense any more.

Also, I was a lit­tle haughty about the fact that they can­celled their Motueka shows, although af­ter en­coun­ter­ing the equip­ment first-hand, I can see the sense in avoid­ing the colos­sal task of pack­ing up and start­ing again.

Last week­end, with only a week of per­for­mances to go, a friend of­fered to or­gan­ise tick­ets, and so we set off to Rich­mond with our old­est kids in tow. What a beautiful spec­ta­cle it was.

The show­man­ship was won­der­ful – ev­ery move­ment was with el­e­gant flour­ish and pointed toes. There is noth­ing that can draw at­ten­tion to your own lack of phys­i­cal­ity like watch­ing some­one lift their own body weight hor­i­zon­tal to the ground with the same amount of ef­fort that it is tak­ing you to raise your arm and shovel but­tered pop­corn into your mouth.

One of my favourite acts was an in­cred­i­ble jug­gler, whose hands were a blur as he guided a re­lent­less stream of balls to the ground as if he was calmly flick­ing wa­ter from his fin­ger­tips.

I was de­lighted to see safety har­nesses and crash pads un­der­neath the aerial acts, be­cause it meant that I could just sit back and en­joy the skill and sheer beauty of the per­for­mances, rather than fever­ishly fret that at any minute some­one was go­ing to fall to their death. The fi­nale in­volved two, and then three, and then four mo­tor­bikes loop­ing at full-speed in­side a metal globe that was about the size of my rather mod­est liv­ing room, and this was the only act that had me hiding my face in the nape of my cap­ti­vated fouryear-old’s neck.

As we left the arena, I dis­sected the per­for­mances with my friend. We thought about con­sult­ing Google to try and un­ravel some of the event’s se­crets, but de­cided against it – af­ter all, it’ll be more fun to just be amazed all over again the next time the cir­cus comes to town.

The We­ber Bros Cir­cus is per­form­ing at Sax­ton Field un­til Sun­day May 13.


The show­man­ship of the cir­cus didn’t fail to dis­ap­point.

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