Summer Circus and Water Spectacular 2019, Great Yarmouth Hippodrome: A triumph for the Jay family
PUBLISHED: 16:36 06 August 2019 | UPDATED: 16:36 06 August 2019
Great Yarmouth's Hippodrome Circus marks a very special anniversary this year: it's 40 years since owner Peter Jay has been at the helm and he is given a well-deserved tribute in the latest summer spectacular in a show packed with dazzling thrills.
This summer's Circus and Water Spectacular at Britain's only surviving total circus building - found tucked away behind the neon flashing lights of Circus Circus amusement arcade on Yarmouth's famous Golden Mile - marks 40 years since owner Peter Jay took over the reins in 1979.
Built in 1903 by showman George Gilbert, the circus has played host to some of the most incredible acts in the world, from Lillie Langtry to Max Miller, escapologist Houdini to a likely visit from the clown's clown, Charlie Chaplin. There is magic in the very fabric of this fine building, and 116 years later, it's still as enchanting as ever.
In latter years, this is entirely thanks to the passion of the Jay family: owned by Peter Jay, managed by Ben Jay, talent scouted by Christine Jay and led from the ring by producer, director and star Jack Jay, the Hippodrome is a real family affair and the love the Jays have for their building, their circus and the shows they put on is evident in every single minute of this fast-paced, thrilling rollercoaster of a show.
As a circus veteran, one of my great pleasures at the shows is watching the faces of people who've never been before - and this show is a treat when it comes to people watching, especially during the water spectacular and when The Motorbike Globe Riders appear to defy gravity in their tiny sphere.
A child sitting near us was so astonished that she almost fell out of her seat: she simply couldn't believe what she seeing, repeatedly turning to look at her father with a "did that just happen?!" dropped jaw and expression of awe. My husband's grandchildren were in awe and they weren't even at the circus with us (I'd texted their mother to tell her we were sitting next to Norwich City's Tim Krul and family).
With a comedy partnership which now spans a decade, Jack and Johnny Mac have the kind of chemistry which shines like a diamond and a genuine warmth which extends to the audience, particularly when the audience are involved in the gags. They led the show assuredly through a rollercoaster ride of thrilling acts.
I loved The Chicago All Stars with their basketball and tumbling routines and The Skating Daltons, Melany and Jess, sent my head into a spin with their roller-skating routine which sees them rotate at huge speeds while hanging on to each other by what looks like the merest thread.
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Fans of aerial routines are in for a treat in this circus - there's Ada Forsberg on the Washington Trapeze, The Arctic Ensemble with their breathtaking Korean Cradle routine which involves people launching themselves at a brave catcher in mid-air and Victor Volante on the cloudswing, performing above the pool.
And there are plenty of heart-in-the-mouth moments during this jam-packed show - particularly when the marvellous men on their flying machines (well, motorcycles) filled their globe with fuel-injected thrills as four managed to avoid each other at great speed in a space half the size of my front room. Absolutely amazing.
Estelle Clifton's dancers and the Hippodrome Show Swimmers were energetic and fun and throughout the show, there were lovely video clips of Peter talking about the Hippodrome and his 40-year tenure which only served to emphasise what a labour of love this show is.
At the very end, Peter himself emerged from the shadows to rapturous applause and rightful praise - as a tribute to his dedication and vision, this year's circus is just the ticket. Congratulations to the Jays on creating Yarmouth's most tempting tradition.
* The Summer Circus and Water Spectacular 2019 runs until September 15. Call 01493 844172 or visit www.hippodromecircus.co.uk.