I look around and realise that the rows of tiered seats behind me are going to remain empty. Mr and Mrs Wood and the whole Wood family, as circus folk describe a tent with more empty furniture than patrons. But as the lights go down it ceases to matter. In a theatre, you would feel the emptiness of a
|Circus Mania author Douglas McPherson|
with one of the last elephants to perform
in a British circus
The spotlights converge on the closed dark red velvet curtains - the ring doors. Behind a desk off to the side, Lacey puts the music on - and that’s when something extraordinary happens.
|Inside the big top|
- Circus Mania takes you there
It’s a piece of music so predictable that a modern, cirque-style show wouldn’t play it in a million years. I should find it unspeakably naff - or, at the very least, ironic and amusing. But within the big top, with the trampled mud, the sawdust and the whiff of horses and camels, it hits me harder than any piece of music I have ever heard. 250 years of tradition, the circus magic, call it what you will - it hits me like a train.
Even typing this a month later, just remembering that moment brings a lump the size of a tennis ball to my throat and I feel the tears welling up behind my eyes.
This is the real deal, that simple little piece of music says to me. This is circus, undiluted and unashamed. It’s down, it’s marginalised and there’s not much of it left... but it’s alive, it’s powerful and it will live on.