Sunday, April 24, 2005

Circus Minimus

On Friday we took Bogi (and her friend Kornel) to the circus. I’ve never been to the circus before. Or at least I’ve never been to a traditional big-top-in-a-field travelling circus. I’ve been to Cirque du Soleil, but that’s not so much a circus as a piece of athletic entertainment for yuppies who are too scared to go to the football. So anyway, the real circus was just about as I could have imagined. A group of people in caravans show up and set up in a piece of open ground, plaster the town with posters and then drive a van round all day announcing their presence. This one was called “International Circus Columbia” which I assumed was a piece of branding, and in fact they’d be either a bunch of Romanians from Galati or somewhere, or a bunch of Hungarians from somewhere equally provincial. I also assumed they’d all be gypsies, since the travelling show image in the UK is one of a reasonably heavy proportion of gypsies, and with Romania having the largest population of gypsies in Europe, I just thought it would be the case.

Apparently not. Fairs and circuses here are not seen as gypsy things, to my surprise. And as the circus went on it became clear that the “International Circus Columbia” may well not be quite as deserving of a prosecution under the trades descriptions act as I had guessed either. While we never got to learn the nationalities of our entertainers, they were all introduced as Roberto and Antonio and Carlos Manuel and such like names. And they certainly looked South American. And they had (badly) trained llamas. So maybe, just maybe.

It was good. Not Cirque du Soleil good obviously, but also not rubbish juggling and half-arsed dog tricks as I had feared. There were one or two weak points (the knife thrower in particular was pretty pathetic, standing so close to the board he could virtually have placed the knives in it rather than throwing them) , and there was an animal section that it could easily have done without (frankly I wasn’t as perturbed by the fact that there were animals as I thought I would be, the animals all looked well cared for and healthy, but watching horses run round in circles, while maybe illustrative of fabulously trained animals, is not exactly exciting, and nor is it is so obviously skilful as watching three blokes standing on top of each other half way up a wire), but aside from that it was really pretty good, well presented and full of very impressive pieces of athleticism. (The previous is my entry in the “longest blog sentence of 2005” annual Blog awards) Particularly impressive from the point of view of all the dads in the audience was the rope climbing woman, who was not only stunningly beautiful, but also wound herself flexibly round that rope in such a way as to practically force you to imagine similar acrobatics elsewhere…but I digress.

Multitasking seems to be the order of the day too – Antonio, the bloke who stood on a plank balanced on balls and on ever higher piles of planks balanced on glasses (does that make him an acrobat?), also did a stint of horse mastery, and then reappeared at the with his two brothers to do some hanging acrobatics that involved prodigious strength and balance. The ring master also did a turn as the bloke with a pole on his head while “Miss Dorin” cavorted about on the top. The rope woman also appeared as a clown for a while and at the very beginning was Antonio’s (very) lovely assistant during his plank gig. All in all, in a two hour show there were probably only about 12 performers all together, which leads me to my next conclusion…that it’s a pretty lucrative business. There were probably about 700 people there, all of whom paid more or less 100,000 Lei to get in, coupled with the outrageous price of popcorn and candy floss and the rides on ponies at the interval, must have meant that they easily cleared 100 million lei for the night – and in a 5 day period in town they did 7 shows, which is not bad for a week’s work. I mean they have all the equipment and the animals to maintain, and have to drive around and presumably pay some kind of site fee, but even if that all sucks up ¾ of the takings, they get approx €5000 for the week’s work – and as there can’t possibly be any more than 20 people involved, this is pretty good money (well, it is in Romania at least). Mind you I bet there’s some kind of circus pimp middleman who gets a large percentage for “setting up” the venues and generally not hanging around on a wire 20 metres above the ground.

Sorry, can’t think what drew me off onto that materialistic accountancy tack. I’ll try and make sure it never happens again. Where was I? Oh, yes, the circus. A good thing, definitely. I can see why people might be tempted to run away to join them. And I’m not just referring to the opportunity of getting closer to the bendy blonde either (and anyway, I suspect Antonio has his hands on her, and I reckon he could tear me into pieces with his bare hands and feed the bits to his llamas). I wonder if they’ve a vacancy for a teacher trainer who can do a bit of cooking? Give me a flipchart or a wok and I can do things that will make the crowd gasp in amazement.

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