Hippodrome Circus, Yarmouth

The Greatest Show on Earth is forging a way forward in the 21st century with acts that still astound.

By KEIRON PIM

The Greatest Show on Earth is forging a way forward in the 21st century with acts that still astound.

Gone are the parading elephants, fancy horse-riding feats and horn-tooting, clumsy clowns. In their place is a range of stunning human performances whose split-second timing, beyond-belief-balancing and juggling stunts are set to the pound of pop music amid hi-tech lighting and water effects.

But Yarmouth's Hippodrome Circus is not quite animal-free. Ziggy the border collie is likely to be the last creature to grace the ring with his endearing dog and tramp act.

Impresario Peter Jay, who runs the attraction, said historically animals were a big audience draw; but a lack of quality acts, more than animal welfare issues, meant elephants and camels were no longer in the line-up – which still pleases traditionalists with spangled show girls and tumbling acrobats.

This year under the slogan “one ring rules them all” audiences can look forward to two-hours of non-stop entertainment switching seamlessly from one feat to the next.

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Modern circus has done away with the ringmaster in a red jacket to a more pacey format, which avoids pauses and booming announcements.

Mr Jay said modern pastimes had not dimmed enthusiasm for the Big Top, which was evolving all the time.

His 13-year-old son Jack had chosen some of the music for the show including Faithless, Eddy Grant, Metallica, Ricky Martin and The Weather Girls.

The show builds to a watery finale when the ring becomes a swimming pool and real rain falls. Synchronised swimmers make graceful shapes and men descend from the ceiling to the tune of It's Raining Men, while tens of thousands of ping pong balls flood the floor.

And a spectacular wheel of fire is suspended above the pools with fizzing, flashing fireworks adding to the effect.

Giant bugs from London's Millennium Dome will scoot around the ring under ultra violet lights and leaping tumbling acrobats will be catapulted into the air on to massive crash mats from a Russian Swing.

t There are shows every day at 2.30pm and 7.30pm including Sundays (no 2.30pm on Fridays). Tickets are £8, £10, £11 and £12.50 for adults, OAPs £7 all seats. Call 01493 844172 to book.

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