Come to the circus, just a few quid to escape into a fantastic fairytale world for a couple of hours.
We're in a rich village somewhere in the English countryside, an hour by train from London. The name of the place doesn't matter, because the circus moves constantly amongst seventy venues in England and Wales from April to November. Twice a week the big top - a big striped yellow and red tent outside, a dark sky dotted with stars inside - is raised in a few hours to bring a parallel world to life.
John Lawson's is small, and was voted Britain's best small circus of 2008, as proclaimed on the posters. Its tiny world is contained inside the 24-meter diameter of the big top. On the seats about 320 people enjoy the show led by Attila the ringmaster and his company of nine artistes: Jason the knife thrower, acrobats Bori and Miss Nora, the young juggler Henrick and the Popolinos, two musical clowns, all of whom live and work between the bright stage lights and the dark shadows behind the scenes. The circus has no animals, just a few pet dogs and a rat that live with the artists in their caravans.
Everything outside the big top fades into insignificance. From inside, you can hardly tell if it's day or night outside. The audience enters the big top and chooses a seat: families with children, youngsters with fashionable haircuts and some old couples who come every year since John Lawson's first came here, 27 years ago. The artists themselves sell gadgets and food: "Flashing lights!", "Clown face painting!", "Spinning plates!" A father brings his son to the clown and the kid soon becomes a red faced Spiderman, his real identity disguised for the rest of the afternoon.
Suddenly, a voice from nowhere announces that "in eight minutes the show will begin! It's your last chance for candy floss, just near the entrance. And may we remind you that if you're sitting on a plastic seat, you will get wet!" A chorus of disappointed "ohhhs" rises from the audience as the lights dim.Yes, every seat is in plastic! The lights are down, let the show begin!