]Billy Smart’s Circus comes to town!

 Circus  Chipshop 075 (Small)

Coulrophobia is a fear of clowns. It’s a recent term, probably from the 80s.

I used to love Billy Smart’s Circus. I saw it live in Brighton when I was a child, and it was a regular part of our Christmas Day entertainment, coming on after the Queen’s speech.

The other day I went to meet Yasmine Smart, who is one of Billy Smart’s granddaughters. She’s aged 60, and like her cousin Charmaine Stevens, (see my Fairground articles,) she looks years younger, with a figure that girls in their 20s would envy!

She works as the Ringmistress, which she first did at the tender age of 14, when the ringmaster was ill. The following year, she started officially as Ringmistress. And now, she’s back in the role. It’s the first time that the circus has had a Smart family member in it since the 80s.

There’s a huge foyer with a café that moves the queue rapidly, selling burgers, popcorn, candyfloss, drinks, etc.

Yasmine meets and greets everyone in the foyer, then her loud, clear voice announces several times,

‘Ladies and gentlemen, the performance will start in … minutes.’

The circus ring is now a raised platform.

Above the entrance, a live orchestra plays.

I didn’t realise for a while that the music was live. They’re from Poland, and excellent. The music is an important part of the performance, and subtly blends in with every act.

Jonny Bogino is the only clown in the circus.

Remember what I said about a fear of clowns? Apparently it’s due to the clown being evil in so many horror films.

Even in The Simpsons, Krusty the Clown is a villain, and Bart Simpson screamed in terror when he had a new bed with a clown headboard!

It’s usually the parents, not the children, who are scared, and pass it on to their children.

So circus clowns have had to adapt to this.

Jonny Bogino comes from an Italian circus family. He doesn’t wear a clown’s traditional makeup. He wears thick eyeliner and silly clothes. He acts like a rather naughty child, and Yasmine tells him off; in other words, he clowns around!

He’s a Reprise Clown, or a Carpet Clown. Like a compere, he fills in for a few minutes while the next act is getting ready.

Once, he skipped along in front of the seats, throwing popcorn at the Dads, who all tried to catch them in their mouths.

The public loved him!

There aren’t any animals involved in the show any more. Some sites allow them and some don’t.

Wild animal acts will soon be illegal, but domestic acts are still allowed, like performing dogs and horses.

Personally, I’d like to see at least one animal act included.

OK, maybe it was time to stop cracking a whip at snarling tigers. But remember that Britain’s Got Talent was won by Pudsy the Performing Dog!

The artistes are very professional. They come from all over the world. They all have circus agents, and are changed after about two years, or less.

Billy Smart’s brings in acts that haven’t been seen in the UK before.

There was The Flying Aces, a trapeze group from Australia,

Luciano from Argentina, who whirled his bolas around!

Germaine the foot juggler – on the back of a motorbike – from France,

Alina from a Moscow State Circus family, who danced elegantly with two large cubes,

The X-treme Brothers from Bucharest, who were X-tremely strong, performing gymnasts, (Cor, nice bodies!)

A Cuban acrobatic team from Havana,and

Team Fonz, who I loved.

It was a simple act, with an American diner background, and a trampoline in front.

To the tune of Happy Days, they bounced from diner to trampoline and back.

At the end, there was a traditional circus parade, when everyone marched out and took a bow.

I asked Yasmine why people should go to the circus, and she said,

Three generations come to watch. It’s attracting middle brackets too – teens and couples in their early 20s without children. The whole family can go to a circus. It brings the child out in them!

Loads of people ask her how they can join the circus, and she tells them to go to a circus school.

My opinion of it?

It was good, clean entertainment, with just enough suggestion of danger to hold the audience’s interest.

If someone has a birthday, they will mention it during the show if you ask them to.

The show lasts around two hours. We were never kept waiting, and an intermission broke up the time, which flew past quicker than the trapeze artistes!

Yes, it was totally different to the circus of the past, but it’s adapted well.

I’m surprised that Simon Cowell hasn’t got involved! I can see the flashing lights (and £ signs) saying Simon Cowell’s Circus!

Box Office: 0113 260 2444

Email: contact@billy-smarts-circus.co.uk