Billy Smart's Circus

CAROLINE CULOT Norfolk Showground

CAROLINE CULOT

> Norfolk Showground

The name may be an old one, but Billy Smart's Circus 2005 is an all-new show, which attempts to breathe life into the world of the Big Top for a whole new generation.

Appearing at the Norfolk Showground until April 3, this is a circus that takes the art form forward with new acts performed in a different style.

It can never go back to the good old days of the circus when Billy Smart's troupe toured the country on a mammoth scale with elephants and prancing horses.

But this show has much of what we love about going to the circus while using popular music to back the acts, which are more upbeat with more updated costumes.

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This circus came to Norwich two years ago when it first used the famous Smart name with the blessing of the family, but the new show is bigger and better with 35 performers.

It's a bid to show Britain can boast a good circus, like Moscow and China, although it has to be said it consists of a range of international artists, with few English performers, which perhaps says something about our circus schools.

It started well yesterday with an energetic roller skating routine by the Skating Aratas led by Emilia dressed in Kylie-esque gold pants and with a bottom to match.

All the acts were enthusiastic, with a beautiful trapeze act by Liina Aunola from Finland and a dramatic end to the first half when a fabulous magic fountain appears out of the ring. This is spectacular - a real eye-opener.

The Wolodos Troupe from Belarus do their stuff on the parallel bars and my favourite routine, which was just so original and really shows how the circus can move on, came from the Duo Monastyrsky. This act consists of an elegant woman who manages to keep changing her clothes by magic and in a split second.

All in all, Billy Smart's Circus was slick and stylish; it had class if perhaps lacking some of the real thrill of the death-defying acts we used to see in circuses. But the choice is down to us - if we want this art form to continue, we must support it.

To book tickets, call the hotline 0870 444 1505.

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