Monday, April 02, 2007

A closer look at rhe Tower Circus

(These photos were taken discreetly before and after the performance by available light without the use of a tripod and are consequently somewhat blurry).

The Tower Circus auditorium sits at the base of the four tower legs. The steelwork is skillfully concealed by elaborate ornate plasterwork with rich arabesque designs. The circular ring is surrounded by stepped arena seating and there are four balconies supported on the rirst cross-members bracing the legs.

Theatre-style boxes are incorporated into two of the tower legs, although one of them is given over to a technical control room.

Three of the four balconies are substantially deeper than the fourth to the north- originally they were all the same when the circus was plainer but when the ballroom and circus were reconstructed by Frank Matcham he enlarged the ballroom to improve the proportions and make it less narrow. This incursion can be seen in the form of the vertical wall above the balcony.

Four curved supporting girders create arches to near-ceiling height. (Above the central structure is the pit for the tower lifts, although there is roof access to a void below this for circus artistes to descend from the ceiling level when required). Four large roll-up screens can be seen beyond the arched girders- these date back to a season of laser shows in the 80s.

This photo of the south-West tower leg walkway shows that the structural steelwork is never very far away and occasionally emerges to the surface.

This toilet access stairway shows another cross-member and indeed lots of little rooms have been squeezed into odd shaped spaces.

The Circus ring has two vomitories (North & South) with the Band over the South one. The ring floor is mounted on a large hydraulic ram and can be lowered in order to flood the ring for the traditional water Finale'.

This shot taken after the show had finished shows the ring slowly returning to normal level. (The circular fixture with lights and water jets was placed centre-stage before the Finale', although various jets can squirt up from various nozzles around and under the ring as well as from the ceiling fixtures. Those things that look like elastic bands hanging down are exactly that- there is a rather odd bungee-jump act to finish the show.

Speaking of the show- it consists of world class acts performing impressive (and some of them hazardous) routines. It is also very multi-culti, with Chinese plant pot balancers & Bungee jumpers, Russian acrobats & quick-change artists, Czech foot jugglers, Eastern European wheel of death & tightrope walkers & even Mooky's younger brother (English with Hungarian roots) juggling from the back of a motor-trike. It is also anchored with some very colourful costume and dance numbers, the theme being "Mooky's Maskerade".

The show even featured Mooky in a comedy routine with three elephants, although they were really six people in rather clever costumes.

There were three dodgy moments during the show- an acrobat fell when trying to be springboarded onto someone else's shoulders, a highwire man fell (and managed to grab the rope) when trying to climb on the back of another and a trick that involved bouncing a ball up a large ladder construction went wrong. Each time, the turns composed themselves and had another (successful) go.

The circus is worth more than the cost of admission to the Tower and well worth travelling long distances for, but you have to tune out the hard sell of tat. Sit towards the north (back to the ballroom, the side with the Tower Circus in lights over the ring entrance) and the lower the better.

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