Saturday, September 08, 2012

Rare London Acclaim for Showbiz David's "Inside the Changing Circus"

by Douglas McPherson
The Stage
September 6

Step right up for a visit to the
American circus – there could be
no finer guide than David Lewis
Hammarstrom. A fan for 50 years,
Hammarstrom’s passion for sawdust
and spangles bubbles from every line
but – a rarity among circus writers –
he’s as quick to point out the rubbish
and rip-offs as the wonderful.

His aim is to make you “a more
discriminating circus fan”. And his
forensic examination of performance
and production includes much that
insiders could learn from: “Speed,
pep and pace are three words
any director should memorise,”
he writes.

The American circus is changing
rapidly. Dwindling audiences have
consigned the three-ring circus
to history. The Ringling Brothers
became the “Ring-less Brothers”,
when they moved out of big tops
“that you could almost feel breathing
in and out” and into indoor arenas
“as exciting to behold as an abandoned
airstrip in the Nevada desert”
Cirque du Soleil, meanwhile, has
prospered by selling traditional
tricks as high art.

He admits being a circus fan can
be frustrating. But the thrill of the
big trick keeps us coming back for
more. Wire-walking king Karl
Wallenda summed up the appeal
as, “Look what a man can do.”

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