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Giffords Circus – Xanadu
★★★★

Chiswick House & Gardens

Giffords Circus

Giffords Circus – Xanadu

Chiswick House & Gardens

Reviewed – 27th June 2019

★★★★

 

“Witnessing the performers having as much fun as we, the audience, created a special bond through the shared experience”

 

Giffords Circus was started in the Cotswolds in 2000 by Nell and Toti Gifford. Its latest production, Xanadu comes to Chiswick Park this summer. Directed by Cal McCrystal, Xanadu is an interpretation of the poem ‘Kubla Khan’ by Samuel Taylor Coleridge. Written in 1797 and published in 1816, Kubla Khan is a dream-like, epically depicted verse, full of romanticism and beautiful imagery. Giffords Circus uses these themes and takes us down a rabbit hole, back in time, to a fantasy world full of peace and love.

On entry you’re greeted by the ornately costumed front of house and are lead into a wonderland adorned with fairy lights and flowers. There is a sense as though the circus has been waiting here, all along, just for you to arrive.

Food is on hand at the Circus Sauce Restaurant to munch on before descending into the Big Top where the audience are greeted by Tweedy and Mr Fips; a cheeky comedy duo often getting into trouble and roping the audience into their hilarious capers along the way.

Dressed as a glittering hippy master of ceremonies, Michael Fletcher guides the audience through a journey full of acrobatics, equestrian acts, aerial gymnastics and performances that are an awesome spectacle to see. All accompanied by the The Band, playing songs that transported us back to the decades of Woodstock and rock n roll.

There isn’t one act that could be singled out as a favourite. Each were incredible and utterly arresting in their own way. The commitment to present a show of pure quality is clear to see on the expressions of every participant. Their smiles and genuine laughter was very contagious. Witnessing the performers having as much fun as we, the audience, created a special bond through the shared experience. Moments like this are beautifully unique and unforgettable.

What makes this production special is the ambiance felt the moment you entered. The warmth and friendliness of everyone is palatable and guests are made to feel part of the Gifford family. McCrystal directs a show inspired by an 18th century poem and avoids making it feel abstract or esoteric. It respectfully nods to aspects of the poem and captures the reverie-like state, which perforates throughout the text. The result is a haven of joyful escapism. Psychedelic, magical mayhem filled with flower power, good vibes and unadulterated fun for all ages.

 

Reviewed by Pippin

Photography by Gem Hall

 


Giffords Circus – Xanadu

Chiswick House & Gardens until 8th July then tour continues until 29th September

 

 

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The Wasp

The Wasp
★★★½

Etcetera Theatre

The Wasp

The Wasp

Etcetera Theatre

Reviewed – 24th June 2019

★★★½

 

“Lacey and Sammons both acknowledged the significance of each word so the author’s themes could be truly heard”

 

The Wasp, by Morgan Lloyd Malcolm depicts the encounter of two old school mates as they are reunited for the first time in twenty years. These two friends could not be more different, yet a startling proposition bonds them once more as their fraught history resurfaces with serious repercussions.

Peppered Wit Productions took this ambitious play on with great confidence and control, not being intimidated by the density of it. As a two-hander both actresses, Joanne Sammons and Tara Lacey kept up their stamina and their energy buoyant throughout the ninety minute play. Barely leaving the stage, they were engaging and took the audience on a journey with them providing a believable performance with the characters developing well.

Malcolm’s writing at times can be curt and Pinteresque and then contrast with lengthy monologue type responses – this could easily be lost by actors with less understanding, yet Lacey and Sammons both acknowledged the significance of each word so the author’s themes could be truly heard.

Peppered Wit Productions is a self funded company, creating their work collectively. They are an example of what collaboration done well looks like. The set design and directorial choices were well placed and executed with quality and professionalism – all done on what one can only image to be a somewhat meagre budget. They are also dedicated to bring theatre to audiences far and wide, making it accessible to communities who are often marginalised and left on the outskirts of the theatrical world. This is a very commendable trait of this accomplished theatre troupe.

The Wasp is a tale of psychological turns and societal dichotomies. Malcolm asks questions about the inherent nature of violence within human beings, about nature vs nurture and how childhood is more than simply a time in our past but the foundation and catalyst to our future life choices – all of which was depicted with dexterity, humour and commitment.

 

Reviewed by Pippin

Photography courtesy Peppered Wit

 

Etcetera Theatre

The Wasp

Etcetera Theatre ahead of Edinburgh Festival Fringe

 

Last ten shows reviewed at this venue:
Little by Little | ★★ | September 2018
The Break-up Autopsy | ★★★★ | October 2018
Never Swim Alone | ★★★★ | November 2018
Rats | | November 2018
Vol 2.0 | ★★★ | November 2018
Jailbirds | ★★ | December 2018
The Very Well-Fed Caterpillar | ★★★★ | December 2018
Bricks of the Wall | | January 2019
Saga | ★★★★ | March 2019
Safety Net | ★½ | April 2019

 

Click here to see more of our latest reviews on thespyinthestalls.com