Giffords Circus’ Nancy Trotter Landry: ‘Nell seemed to me like some medieval queen’

PUBLISHED: 14:50 02 January 2020

Tweedy and Nancy in the 2018 production, My Beautiful Circus. Photo credit - Gem Hall

Tweedy and Nancy in the 2018 production, My Beautiful Circus. Photo credit - Gem Hall

Gem Hall

There’s no doubt that the remarkable legacy of the late Nell Gifford will live on through the circus that she loved so much - here, we speak to Nancy Trotter Landry to find out what to expect from their 2020 season

This year sees the 20th Anniversary of Giffords Circus, and to celebrate they'll be kicking up a Hooley! With Cal McCrystal back in the director's chair, expect a top-quality show of timeless Celtic rhythms, horses, fairies, music, wild dancing and more. Also returning this year is the physical comedy genius of Tweedy the clown, the wild talents of Lil Rice, and the brilliant and beautiful Nancy Trotter Landry - last seen in the 2018 production, My Beautiful Circus.

We caught up with Nancy for an exclusive peek behind the red velvet curtains…

When and how did you discover Giffords Circus, Nancy, and when did you first start performing?

I first saw Giffords in the summer of 2002, not far from where I grew up in Gloucestershire; I'd just finished art college and was looking for what to do next. I was struck by the handmade feel and high quality costumes and to my mind, breath-taking romance of it. Nell seemed to me like some medieval queen. After the show when I dragged my feet to leave, seeing the company sitting and eating together, I thought, "If I'm looking for work, then why not work here?"

You seem to have a natural aptitude for comedy, and one of your most hilarious performances was with Tweedy in the 2018 show, My Beautiful Circus. Are you happiest playing straight or comic roles?

I have always loved comedy, yet it was Tweedy who jogged this in my memory. When he joined Giffords, the year after I did, straight away I was taken with how much fun he was having doing this performing work that I had newly rolled into and I gravitated towards him and his japes and began giving time to the silliness that I didn't mind at all showing. However, I am quite sure literally thousands of people would like to play with Tweedy and attaining time and space in the ring beside him wasn't easy. I felt unconfident in wishing to be seen as stupid, as a woman, and there was so much learning to be done and always a high level of diplomacy necessary in show business; trying to be seen, as well as trying to be a good company member. All in all, it was a long process and comedy stood through it all as a very appealing muse. Comedy for me, however, and drama or tragedy, are part of a spectrum and I love to play both, and they inform one another totally for me.

Can you tell us something about Tweedy that might surprise us?

He is just as fun in everyday life as he is in the circus ring but totally practical and sensible when necessary, making him a thoroughly wonderful human being. That part won't surprise anybody.

Readers may be surprised to hear you're an accomplished dramatic actress, too, and were nominated for Best Supporting Actress for brilliant love. Any other film or stage work in the pipeline?

I am working on a new play 'BOAT' with Paulina Lenoir, which we are currently looking for funding to take further because we're really excited about it and think it has great potential. I am also lucky enough to be part of a film by Annkatrin Hausmann based on the life of the brilliant clown Peter Shub which hopefully we will find means to complete, after the first part was supported by Wim Wenders. Otherwise, I am writing songs for my band Deerhart, painting, and on the lookout for exciting projects in film and theatre!

We're so excited to hear you're returning for the 2020 show, The Hooley. What happens next?

I am also very excited to be joining Nell and her team for 2020. In the lead up to March, when rehearsals begin proper, Tweedy and I will play together, and come up with as many silly ideas as possible; I'll be thinking about potential animal partners for me in the show and dreaming up fun takes on the theme; there'll be production meeting after production meeting, which I'd like to be at. The wheels of the office barely stop turning but are now full tilt. Cal will be back and forth a lot from London, as will James and takis, and all the time Nell's studio produces mood-boards, sketches, paintings, models, photos, fabrics, print-outs and plans. And out of this geyser, those conversations, those hours, sometime after Christmas will be born The Hooley, unsurely at first but certainly galumphing! Yippee!

Shortly after conducting this interview with Nancy, we were very sorry to hear of the death of Giffords Circus co-founder, Nell Gifford. Nell, a graduate of Oxford University, realised her childhood dream of starting a glamorous, 1930s-style circus in 2000 and, as a gifted artist and writer, she breathed much of her creativity into it. Next year's production, The Hooley will celebrate the first 20 years, the next 20 years and Nell's incredible life. She leaves behind the next generation - her twins Cecil and Red - as well as the astonishing legacy that is Giffords Circus.

The Hooley 280-date tour runs from April 9 until September 27. Venues are: Fennells Farm, near Stroud; Bowood House, Wiltshire; Daylesford Organic Farm, Kingham; Sudeley Castle, Winchcombe; Blenheim Palace, Woodstock; Oxford University Parks; Chiswick House & Gardens, London; Morden Hall Park, London; Stonor Park, Oxfordshire; Barrington, Burford; Minchinhampton Common; Marlborough Common and Stratton Meadows, Cirencester.

For full tour dates and to book tickets visit

Giffords Circus 2020: The HooleyGiffords Circus 2020: The Hooley

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