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London, United Kingdom
Holly Searle is a writer who was born in Westminster in the middle of London. She shares her birthday with Jarvis Cocker and David Seaman and like Jarvis Cocker she wears glasses but has nothing whatsoever in common with David Seaman. She is fascinated by words, people and their stories, and regularly spends hours fantasising about being offered a weekly column. She has a degree in Film and Television which she gained from Brunel University in 1997. She has been blessed with two quite remarkable children whom she adores. She enjoys the company of her friends and the circus that is life. Long Walk to Forever by Kurt Vonnegut is her favourite short story. She is the author of the published children's tale The Story of Balan Singh, and is currently working on her first book.

Friday, 26 April 2013

Circus By Holly Searle





I do love a circus.

Over the years, both before and after having children, I have always made an effort to see as wide a variety of them as I possibly can.

Although, having said that, I have never been to one of those Albert Hall hyper stylish one, as they aren't what I consider to be a truly proper circus.

No, I like those old fashioned ones, with sawdust on the floor and a slightly debauched David Lynch Blue Velvet air too them.

In all probability, this stems from the fact that I saw The Greatest Show on Earth when I was a kid, and I was so intrigued by the character of the mysterious clown called Buttons played by James Stewart, that I was hooked. Buttons the clown never removes his make-up, not even in between shows. Who is he, and what is he trying to hide by concealing his true identity from the rest of the troupe?

And why has he left Bedford Falls and what has he done with Harvey?

Turns out that Buttons the clown is hiding something. Yes folks, he certainly is. He hasn't just run away with the circus because he likes to make people laugh or because he has run out of make-up removing cream. No, the truth is that he simply has a past that is cleverly concealed by a think layer of pancake and a red nose.

Personally I disagree with people who spoil the plots and story lines of films, so I am not going to ruin the movie by telling you what it is, or indeed, what is
was.

Ahhhhhhhh.

Nope, you'll just have to find out for yourself.

And maybe Buttons' duplicitous behaviour is much more to blame for an inherent fear of clowns, than Stephen King is. Or maybe, it was those nasty evil drunk clowns in Dumbo. My money's on the latter. Disney was evil, full stop, and so were those clowns. You would have to be a nasty piece of work, to slip an abandoned minor a Mickey Finn just for your own amusement.

But the fact that there were seemingly real personalities behind all of the make-up and glitter, with real stories, housed within the spectacle of the circus fa├žade simply intrigued me. The circus had it all going on, and had it all going down, or so it would seem.

To the onlooker a circus may appear to be all sparkle with illusions created to enthral and excite its audience, and nothing more. But what The Greatest show on Earth revealed, was the concept that behind all of the smoke and mirrors, lurked an array of dark socially fragmented characters.

So thanks to Cecil B. DeMille's masterpiece, I was smitten.

And there is of course more to the film than the question of who or what Buttons the clown is hiding. It also features an array of interwoven stories between all of the circus folk and is a succulent feast of brightly coloured costumes, tricks, tears, love, betrayal and of course their public performances.

And as well as staring the incomparable James Stewart, it also features in inimitable Gloria Grahame.

Around about the same time, I also saw Trapeze, another circus based movie that features Tony Yondah lies da castle of my foddah Curtis as part of a trapeze act set on defeating the odds by completing a triple somersault, way up high in the air on the trapeze, at all costs without the aid of a net to catch them if they should fall.

I sat on the edge of my seat holding my breath, as the scene approached in which they attempted this death defying act.

It was quite thrilling to watch.

The tangle of bare torsos, sequins and spandex all just added to the tension.

But once again, no, I am not telling.

And so it was, thereafter, forever and beyond, after having seen these filmatic portrayals of all the dramas afoot in the circus and between their folk, that my love for it, was well and truly embedded in my psyche forever.

In real life, I was fortunate one late summer's evening in the mid eighties to have witnessed, the raw spectacle of the French circus Archaos in the open air on Clapham Common.

Their take on what circus should be, had more in common with Mad Max than DeMilles's The Greatest Show on Earth, as it consisted of performers on motorbikes driving through rings of fire, a highly misappropriated use of chainsaws, and a fearsome butcher with a meat clever, whose behaviour even Sweeney Todd would have found shocking.

It was just breathtakingly incredible to watch and I have never seen anything like it since.

I watched it with my eyes as wide as saucers in childlike disbelief. It was like circus crack to me, and I wanted to explore more aspects of this genre.

Thereafter however, I downscaled some and attended a more traditional circus in a tent, in a field in Ireland. In comparison to the Archaos performance, it was the complete polar opposite, but nevertheless, it was full of charm and retained all of the composites one would expect to see; A ringmaster, clowns, acrobats and a smidging of animal participation in the form of horses.

Back in London and during some lean financial times whilst in my second year at university, I was working two jobs in between lectures so that Child One and I had enough to live on, when I saw that the circus was coming to town.

I saved some money and bought two tickets.

On the night in question we sat entranced ringside while the circus weaved its magic. It was just extraordinary to watch and a blessed few hours of much need escapism for us both.

Afterwards we were both high on post circus bliss as we sat by the river eating our burger and chips chatting, when Child One pipes up “That was the best night of my life. Than you Mum.”

Many years later, I invested the same for Child Two and he loved it just as much.

As I grow older, I find I am just incredibly fond of the circus and all of its attributes. I am still intrigued by the performers and what motivated them to join the circus, and, just like Buttons, as I watch them perform, I wonder if they are harbouring a secret or two.

I hope that they are.

And the circus is just like a family, with the Ringmaster as the soul overriding parent, while the Acrobats are the well behavioured children, whilst the Clowns are not.

And just like real life, the circus features ordinary people performing extraordinary acts.

And that's way I love the circus so much.



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