|Me and the elephant|
The visit to the Great British Circus
The elephant, the golden oasis of sawdust, the towering interior of the big top... that picture called to me. If you want to understand circus, that picture said - and at that point I sorely did want to understand it - If you want to see circus in its purest form and see where it came from, then this is where you will find it.
|How the Daily Mail|
reported the return of elephants to the
Great British Circus
I went on to write about many other circuses, of course: the spectacular ice show of Cirque de Glace, the modern day freak show of the Circus of Horrors, the traditional acrobatics of the Chinese State Circus and, of course, the international phenomenon of Cirque du Soleil. But, throughout the writing of Circus Mania, the memory of my visit to the Great British Circus remained my touch stone - a reminder of what a ‘real’ circus was and a living glimpse into the art form’s origins.
Interestingly, whenever I’ve talked about or been interviewed about Circus Mania it’s always the animals people remember fondly, and it was with reference to the elephants - a supportive, sympathetic and nostalgic reference - that Roger Lewis opened his full-page review of Circus Mania in the Mail on Sunday, in which he described Circus Mania as “a brilliant account of a vanishing art form.” (Scroll down the blog to read the full review)
The highlight of that visit to the Great British Circus was watching Lacey in the big cage with his magnificent and beautiful tigers. Mesmerising is the only word to describe his relaxed and gentle interaction with his animals.
The concise text, in which Martin shared his stories in conversation with Jeff Link, takes us swiftly through Lacey’s 40-year career in zoos and circuses, providing fascinating insights into the relationship between animal and trainer and revealing many tricks of his trade.
Among the many anecdotes are the time Lacey persuaded a lion to lay down with a lamb for an advert, and the time two cops mistakenly burst into his hotel room only to find a fully grown lion sleeping in the next bed to Lacey.
There’s even a romance worthy of a Hollywood movie, as we hear how Lacey’s partner Helyne Edmonds ran away with the circus, fell in love with the boss and - “Armed with not so much as a rolled up newspaper” - risked her life to save him from a mauling by two tigers.
The best part of the book is an extensive archive of 140 full-page photos of Lacey and family with many of the animals they have worked with over the years, not just lions, but polar bears, zebra, camels, elephants and even a rhino.
The sight of Lacey and family cosied up with their big cats, as if these born killers were as tame as pampered housecats, makes My Life With Lions an absolute treat. Published by Linctrek (ISBN 978 1 872904 47 4) the price tag is £25.
Read my interview with Martin Lacey.
|Updated for Circus250|
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