Like moths to the flame, people are surging towards a big neon sign saying Zippos Circus in the wide open space of Blackheath in south-east London. This is not a theatre crowd, it is mostly people who think theatre is a bit posh, families who have been coming to Zippos for years. It’s more like a panto audience, with added candyfloss, popcorn and luminous flashing wands. Whatever kind of audience it is, there are plenty of them; the 1,200-seat Big Top is positively bursting at the seams.
The founder and director of Zippos, Martin Burton, an imposing figure, sits in their midst like the headmaster in a class of unruly children. For the most part jovial, he looks like somebody you wouldn’t want to cross. Seated next to him, I am treated to his running commentary on the unfolding show, the very first of Zippos’ summer season.
“He is the fastest knife thrower I’ve ever seen,” he says of Toni, who is hurling custom-made knives in rapid succession at a smiling woman strapped to a revolving wooden circle. “That’s his wife. It’s even more exciting after they’ve had an argument.”
When we come to the mind-boggling climax of the show – four leather-clad guys on souped-up motorbikes riding round what is billed as the Globe of Death, a cylindrical metal cage, criss-crossing each other at high speed like hornets in a jar – Burton admits that it is the only circus act he would never attempt.
Link to Full Article at The Stage.
Main Image: Martin Burton. Photo: Piet-Hein Out