Review: Giffords Circus ‘Xanadu’ 2019

PUBLISHED: 10:40 09 May 2019 | UPDATED: 17:29 04 November 2020

Peace out, baby (c) Gem Hall

Peace out, baby (c) Gem Hall


Giffords Circus is bringing the Summer of Love to a village near you with their 2019 production of ‘Xanadu’

I had been warned not to sit on one of the first few rows.

As a dyed-in-the-wool Giffords fangirl, I know all about the hazards of being in Tweedy the Clown's sight-line. Oh, and turn up late at your peril (the editor of Cotswold Life still winces at the memory of this). But sitting near the front at Giffords' 2019 show takes Tweedy antics to a whole new level…

First off we need to talk about the soundtrack for the Xanadu show as, try as I might, I haven't been able to shake the earworms from my head. Imagine "it's midsummer 1973 in Hyde Park and the flower power movement is at its height," and so we're treated to tunes such as 'White Rabbit', 'Hazy Shade of Winter' and 'Aquarius', all played by the ever-brilliant house band. On (exceptional) vocals, acting as the night's ringmaster and sporting what is probably the hippest, most sequined suit outside of Liberace's wardrobe (respect to takis), is Michael Fletcher. His vocals really are outstanding (note to self: take a phone book along for him to vocalise some time) and are beautifully complemented by those of Lil Rice.

Gifford's Circus starts their 2019 season show, Xanadu, at Fennells Farm, near Bisley, Stroud (c) Andrew Higgins/TWMGifford's Circus starts their 2019 season show, Xanadu, at Fennells Farm, near Bisley, Stroud (c) Andrew Higgins/TWM

Ah, yes, Lil.

Lil, you see, is one of those almost supernatural beings in possession of several talents - all dialled up to 11 - that she can do all at the same time. Think you know how to multitask? You ain't seen nothing yet. As the daughter of renowned pottery designer Emma Bridgewater (check out her wares in the excellent Circus Sauce restaurant), she also happens to have Giffords Circus founder Nell as her aunty. It's all obviously about the genes (flared or otherwise).

Lil joins Michael in a beautiful duet of Judy Collins' 'Both Sides Now' and - while still singing - prepares to astonish us all with her gravity-defying, mesmeric cyr wheel act. And she never misses a beat.

Moments from the 70's themed Xanadu circus show (c) Andrew Higgins/TWMMoments from the 70's themed Xanadu circus show (c) Andrew Higgins/TWM

I've never felt quite so mortal.

Other newcomers include the Daring Donert family from Hungary with their incredible equine vaulting act (ooh!); duo Imagine, who perform a beautiful routine with the silks (aah!); wild woman Anna Rastsova on the fast and furious swinging trapeze (argh!); and semi-clothed New Yorker Jacob D'Eustachio with his amazing flying balls (he's a juggler!). We're also treated to the breathtaking, near-impossible acrobatics of the Havana Circus Company. On more than one occasion, as I'm sitting front row, centre (I know, I know) I fancy I'm about to have one land in my lap and grab my neighbour, squealing. Abandon self-consciousness at Giffords' curtained doorway.

And back to the other hazards of sitting near the front. The irrepressible Tweedy delights throughout - taking pet iron 'Keith' for walks, gate-crashing other acts, rocking up in leather jacket and strides to 'Born to be Wild' on mini bike, bringing audience members into the ring to help with mischief and - his Xanadu pièce de résistance - kitchen capers with fellow clown Jan Erik Brenner. On that note I'll say no more… you just have to experience it!

Jan Erik Brenner and Tweedy, the hilarious clown duo doing a splashing slapstick skit in Xanadu (c) Andrew Higgins/TWMJan Erik Brenner and Tweedy, the hilarious clown duo doing a splashing slapstick skit in Xanadu (c) Andrew Higgins/TWM

To give you a chance to catch your breath, more sedate moments include Nell herself appearing as an almost dreamlike vision dressed in white, riding her stunning grey, Cecil, into the ring alongside daughter Red on her own pony. Simply beautiful.

Throughout the show runs a great storyline, interweaving peace-loving, authority-hating hippies; comical coppers; rock stars; a dove-taming guru; and an oh-so 'square' family - all beautifully directed by Cal McCrystal, who's now on his eighth spectacular production for Giffords and never fails to deliver.

Oh, and by the way, I say do sit near the front if you can - it's a lot of fun - but don't forget to check your adult self at the door.

The Donnert family (c) Gem HallThe Donnert family (c) Gem Hall

Peace out, baby.

To buy tickets visit or call 01242 691181.

Get in the mood before you head out to see the show by putting some flowers in your hair and listening to the groovy soundtrack on Spotify here.

Giffords Circus Xanadu 2019 tour dates:

May 3-13: Fennells Farm, Stroud

May 16-28: Sudeley Castle, Winchcombe

May 30-June 3: Daylesford Organic Farm, Kingham

June 6-10: Blenheim Palace, Oxfordshire

June 14-24: Oxford University Parks, Oxford

June 27-July 8: Chiswick House & Gardens, London

July 11-29: Windsor Great Park, Berkshire

July 25-29: Stonor Park, Henley on Thames

August 1-12: Barrington, Burford

August 15-27: Minchinhampton Common, Stroud

August 30-September 9: Marlborough Common, Wiltshire

September 12-16: Stratton Meadows, Cirencester

September 19-29: Fennells Farm, Stroud

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