Giffords Circus - Carpa

¡Carpa! by Giffords Circus – Review – ★★★★★

The UK’s best circus is back with a Fiesta Mexicana of delights!

¡Carpa! | 14 April-17 September 2022 | Various Venues

Cal McCrystal is back, with rural Mexico as his theme, for the Giffords Circus 2022 show, ¡Carpa!

This circus is always a bit of a trek for those on foot, and Giffords’ home planet of Fennells Farm is a tricky find for those who don’t want to guzzle gas. The trip is worth it though: the picturesque yet posh surroundings of Stroud and the Cotswolds are idyllic.

¡Carpa! by Giffords Circus - Review - ★★★★★ 1
Los Pachangueros | Photograph by @payneandrew

The show takes finely tuned observations of Mexican culture and manages to avoid the pitfalls of appropriation, instead celebrating the vibrance and energy of their inspiration. As soon as the band arrives in pink and gold Mariachi band couture, the tongue in cheek party explodes like a freshly battered piñata.

Tweedy is a masterful comedian as always, but this really is Adriana Duch Carvallo’s time to shine. She is a masterful, fierce madre Mexicana, with hilarious vocal shenanigans and physical clowning throughout.

¡Carpa! by Giffords Circus - Review - ★★★★★ 2
Adriana Duch Carvallo with Isabella and Daniela | Photograph by @payneandrew

Notable acts include Randy Forgione Vega’s powerful dance on straps, The Jasters’ masterful knife throwing, and sisters Isabella and Daniela stealing the show with their double hair hang.

Los Pachangueros – the main acrobatic troupe, from Cuba – are impressive on the Russian swing, but do feel a little bit too close to calamity with a couple of painful looking stumbles. No doubt they’ll iron out the wrinkles pretty quickly.

The horses are touted as an essential part of the Giffords brand, but this year the equine sections seem a little flat, aside from a bonkers bit with Tweedy the Clown flying all over the place across the horses backs. It might be time to rethink the horse act, or even accept that animals might no longer have a place in this circus (though it feels sacrilegious to say so!).

The show is so much more than the acts, with inspired musical references including the heavily Herb Alpert-influenced soundtrack, performed exquisitely by the Giffords House Band. A big shout out must go to Leonie Evans for her nose flute and fast paced Spanish vocals, truly an awesome performance – and, as ever, Takis’ design is stunning, with gold religious effigies and a beautiful sequin Milagro (burning heart) curtain backdrop.

Giffords take circus further, understanding the vital pantomime storytelling, and the fact that jaw-dropping acts need to have a narrative purpose.