REVIEW: Pirates Live! Great Yarmouth Hippodrome Circus
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In 2020 it was the first performance at the Hippodrome to be cancelled, a year later it was forced online by Covid restrictions, this year one of the Pirates Live! hosts fell ill at the last minute: but through it all, the show goes on!
If there’s anything the past few years have taught those in the entertainment industry, it’s the incredible strength they can find in the face of adversity.
In 2020, the Hippodrome led the way for the arts when it became the first theatre in the UK to reopen after the first lockdown and the venue continued to offer shows despite the difficulties of social distancing and bringing artistes from across the world.
And performers have adapted too.
When comedian Ben Langley received a call from the Jay family at the Great Yarmouth Hippodrome asking if he could be a last-minute stand-in for poorly host Johnny Mac, he said yes in a heartbeat.
He then learned the entire swashbuckling show in 24 hours before performing it as if it had been written for him: that’s star quality, right there.
Johnny is now recovered and has returned to the stage, but when I reviewed at the weekend, his pirate boots were admirably filled by Ben, who joined host Jack Jay in the riotous Pirates Live!
The show is a pirate’s treasure chest filled with thrills, spills, slapstick, jaw-dropping talent, fire, water and the kind of escapism that we all desperately need: it was snowing outside, but inside the beautiful Hippodrome, it was warm in all senses of the word.
Looking like a gorgeous film set, half the building has been turned into a port complete with a huge pirate galleon that sits in front of its own real-life lagoon where mermaids swim.
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The audience is immersed in a watery world where Captain Hawkseye (Jack Jay) is guarding a precious bottle which contains the elixir of youth from baddies (and me), in particular his brother Captain Blackeye, the wonderful James Franklin.
Show producer Jack and Ben/Johnny guide us expertly through a show which is designed for maximum audience jaw-dropping, from fire-eating to dizzying acrobatics on the pirate boardwalk, trapeze artistes flying through the air above the pool to a human spider contortionist, mesmerising sirens in the air to hilarious slapstick on land.
Beginning with a beautiful sand art sequence from Kelly Falco that plays on a giant screen, she was then joined by partner Michael Alves for a unicycle act that saw her stack a tower of cups and saucers on her head (my other half, who runs a restaurant, had to be stopped from asking for her CV) before Michael took over with a gravity-defying ladder balance routine.
Columbians Harrison Cuero Martinez, Cesar Aceuedo, Wilmer Martinez, Juan Teran and Laura Tenovio offered a mesmerising masterclass in gymnastics with a particularly exciting Russian bar routine while the Kenyan Black Spider Acrobats (Ogen Laurent Nkwabi, Esalam Tanzania – who also performs a contortionist routine - Rhamadhani Amri Ramadhan and Juma Kombo Chinando) delighted with their outlandish acrobatics.
The Estelle Clifton Dancers – Tamara, Rebecca, Shania, Lucy and Gemma - linked to each performance with customary panache and I loved the Flying Comets from the UK, a trapeze troupe that flung themselves across the ring and the pool with beautiful ease and grace.
It’s wonderful to have Pirates Live! back on stage and to see such incredible artistes working in a show where every single detail has been pored over with such respect and love for the circus craft: well done, Jack, Peter, Ben and Christine, another slice of pure circus magic.
And I'm so glad to hear Johnny is enjoying himself once again...
Pirates Live! is at the Hippodrome until May 2. To find out more visit hippodromecircus.co.uk or call 01493 738877.