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Chiswick House, London
LOOSELY themed around the goings-on at fiesta time in a 19th-century Mexican village, ¡Carpa! (Spanish for tent) is delightful circus fare for all the family — funny, cheeky and occasionally spectacular.
One or two of the performers are actually Mexican — including actor Adriana Duch Carvallo, making her debut under canvas as the comically villainous village matriarch Dona Rosa Francisca.
But otherwise it’s a highly international mix of acts working across a flimsy plot that knits together various traditional big top skills under the Gifford family’s large but homely tent.
There are Hungarian horse riders, Russian trapeze artists, Italian knife throwers and Cuban gymnasts, plus a loveable British principal clown, Tweedy, who takes the place of the traditional whip-cracking ringmaster and sets the tone for much of the pantomime humour that encompasses the action.
With a lively mariarchi band playing familiar Mexican tunes from La Cucuracha to La Bamba, the result is a refreshing take on the circus experience without departing from any key tenets of the art-form.
It might have been interesting to see a slight change of direction in the second half, but the more-of-the same we got was certainly good enough, and in fact contained two of the most memorable contributions of the evening — a magical costume change sequence and an amusing crowd participation exercise in which members of the public were invited to play a musical tune with their backsides.
Despite a couple of short, unscheduled breaks in the first half — caused by power outages that were deftly papered over by the cast — everything ran rousingly to a boisterous musical finale and an acclamatory curtain call from a highly satisfied inter-generational audience.
Being a circus, the show is, of course, on the road. If it happens to be near you, then give it a go.
Runs until 2 October : https://giffordscircus.com/theshow
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