Ian Waller and his family enjoy a hugely enjoyable night at the circus, complete with clowns, acrobats and a talking horse!

What a treat! A real family night out enjoying what must be the best and most imaginative circus experience we’ve ever seen. It was almost as if the lockdown had never happened…

Giffords Circus have been entertaining families with their thoroughly modern circus shows for 21 years and this certainly wasn’t our first visit – in fact before the lockdown interrupted, it had become an annual treat. And now the greatest show in the west is back, visiting venues across the region with a wonderfully imaginative and innovative production that combines story telling, pantomime and circus skills.

Tweedy the clown – one of the stars of the show

Our visit led us to a muddy field (don’t forget your wellies) at Fennels Farm just outside Stroud, and the home of Giffords Circus. Here we found the circus wagons circled and big top tent complete with colourful lights, while the waft of popcorn filled the air amid the chatter of visitors looking forward to the fun to come. While we stocked up on sugary treats and popcorn, cooked food, drinks and a bar are also all available, while an early arrival gives you the chance to chat with friends and soak up the atmosphere.

With social distancing and COVID restrictions still in place, it meant masks on and hands sanitised before we were shown to our seats – with a seat gap between each group – and asked not to leave or move around until one of the circus guides helped us out. Straight away we knew we were in for something special as the excellent live band – The Joyce Country Ceilidh Band – loosened up and the fantastic scenery drew us in.

With the lights dimming, it was Tweedy, circus clown extraordinaire and our compere for the night, who got things going, explaining that he was in fact a traditional Irish leprechaun and needed our help to make sure that the goblins didn’t steal his gold. What follows is feast of fun and silliness, combined with breathtaking circus skills all to the background of live Irish music.

Giffords Circus offers a hugely enjoyable family night out

In no time we were clapping and stamping our feet just like it was panto time all over again, as Tweedy tripped, giggled and clowned his way through the show. Throughout the circus acts were just superb – genuinely thrilling and yet a call back to a more innocent age of entertainment. Over the next couple of hours, we were treated to fairies, trolls, pixies, leprechauns, wild horses, Celtic music and a whole lot more. Early on it was the stunning horses and riding skills of The Giffords Circus Horse Team that grabbed the capacity crowd’s attention, with stunning Sebastian seeming happy and at ease as his rider performed impossible gymnastics on the saddle.

There followed a cavalcade of stunning talent, from the quick feet and athleticism of the Irish dancers Simon Poliushkin and Michael Roberson to the incredible physical skills of aerial acrobats Jonny Grundy and Manuel Artino, and funky and fun tumbling finesse of the New Revolution Troupe. Add in dancers, singing and a dove act, and not forgetting to keep an eye open for those pesky goblins, there was so much to see – even a talking horse!

The result is simply the most imaginative circus show I’ve ever seen. Giffords have done a brilliant job of reinventing circus in a way that is so clever and full of fun, yet retaining the thrills of the traditional performers, all without the need for wild animals. Should you pay a visit? Absolutely – check the website for more details and look forward to a great family night out.