Saturday, 6 June 2015

Chapter 80: Take That and Circus

I was in the Wimbledon Sewing Shop yesterday, actually in Tooting, buying up my body weight in ostrich feathers and black satin, when Take That came on the radio. Could it be magic? Well, it felt like that for me as I was off to see them that night with some girlfriends, as that's what any loyal wife does on the eve of her husband's 40th birthday. 

Off on a Mini Adventure
Take That is a group that I've grown up with, and resonates on so many different levels, as for most people, but for me with mixed emotions. They came out when I was a teenager at a school where I did not fit in. So while the rest of the sixth form bopped away to live Take That concerts on TV in the common room, I retreated to my bedroom with Aladdin Sane and took comfort in a couple of kooks. And I am still cringing at the thought of launching forth to local Dad Mark Owen, having been introduced by a mutual friend as "Lucy who is learning trapeze", about Circus Space, aerial tricks and the whole circus zeitgeist. I only twigged much later that he and his mates had filled Wembley Stadium with Circus years before it had flipped onto my radar, and that just maybe he knew a thing or two more than me. So then I bought the Circus CD in penance for my evangelism and have myself been converted. The songs are fun and upbeat, or boy ballads, and straight from the heart. Although my enjoyment of the album was tempered with a touch of regret that I never saw them in concert, on days when life drags, that music is just what the doctor ordered.

So last week, mucking out the Aegean stables of housework with three kids on half-term to entertain, an email from a friend inviting me to the opening night at the O2 was just the ticket. The evening  itself was warm and balmy, and as we sat outside - albeit in a bar inside the O2 village - having a drink and catching up with half of Wandsworth. Easily pleased, I'd have been happy enough with that for the evening to be honest. But as we entered the arena, it was blindingly obvious that it was the right call to drag ourselves away from the bar. Soaking in the atmosphere, surprisingly intimate, excitement grew exponentially as  the empty seats next to us were occupied by really old friends of mine. In a crowd of 15,000, what are the odds, right?

Joe Dieffenbacher

The set had the feel of Fritz Lang crossed with Gene Kelly, think Cirkopolis meets La SoirĂ©e (see Chapter 67 and Chapter 51), but still I buttoned down my expectations of any circus. So you can imagine my delight when first up on stage was a clown. Not the red-nosed, flat-footed Big Top variety, but Cirque-style, the  consummate physical comedian, part-acrobat, Joe Dieffenbacher ( - see video at the end). A wheel that I thought for a split second could be a unicycle, then became half a penny farthing under the tinkering ministrations of the  clown-cum-inventor-mechanic. There was a giant hamster's wheel (of life) in which he begins to run, then spins, going nowhere. Hustling and bustling flash-harrys appeared with suitcases of goods to sell on the never-never, passers-by in raincoats and trilbies with places to be weaved in and out, tableus vivants of city-living in an alternative world.

The set then exploded in riot of colour, later with technicolour powders recalling a Diwali festival - there was a rainbow myriad of umbrellas, and then amidst a blaze of pyrotechnics in colour-blocks of suits emerged the trio of Gary Barlow, Mark Owen and Howard Donald: "and we're what's left of Take That". And they could afford to take the mickey, because they were stellar in their own right. As this was my first concert, I can't comment on the change in dynamics, but my gut feeling is that Robbie Williams is one of nature's soloists, and while Jason Orange would have worked well as one of the boys, a threesome is always an interesting balancing act. Bromance was the order of the day (though not a Cyr wheel in sight!*), and later there was a stunning, rather heated, dance duet performed by Mark and Howard to one of Gary's ballads that upped the ante.

Circus topped the bill in the order of music, kicking off with "Hold Up The Light**" from the album, so by the time "Up All Night" came on, I was in seventh heaven. There was a magical set in an underwater paradise, the floating jellyfish being my personal favourites, and the beauty of the shadow puppet art on a nautical theme for Circus number "The Garden" completely took my breath away. In terms of classic hits these tracks were up there with  "Relight My Fire", with a flamingly beautiful circus act with Circus Space's Katherine Arnold on cloud swing (video at the end) I also really enjoyed the numbers from the latest album III, which are truly contemporary and progressive, not a whiff of nostalgia.  "These Days" is a cracking number, while "Let in the Sun" (see video) is now seared in my memory together with another sizzling aerial performance from Katherine Arnold, spinning in a sphere at first while other performers attached patches of lights, like countries being fitted onto a globe, until it looked like she was spinning in a ball of fire, and afterwards spun from the base, hanging from straps.

Flight underpinned the concert and a beautiful flock of puppet birds (pictured) prefigured the grand finale where the trio take off, skimming over our dear tumbling clown, with Gary and Mark like the Wright Brothers on the now airborne penny farthing, with Howard in the side-car attached. Boys with their toys having a field day.  It was great to see, because the thing is when you see other people living the dream it gives wings to your own. At the end of the day the evening with Take That was a chance to sing at the top of our voices, dance with wild abandon, wind back the clock, reset it even, and act our (teen) age again. As one of the girls so rightly observed, the thing is Lucy, they are still boys, which technically speaking makes us still girls. And that's why we love them.

You can dance if you like
You can sing every song 
No, you don't have to steal the show
It was your show all along.
(from Hold Up The Light**)

Hold Up The Light from Circus tour (2009)

*STOP PRESS: You may have missed Take That, but if you fancy a spot of bromance you still have time to catch circus boys Bromance, winners of the 2014 Total Theatre Award for Circus and at the Udderbelly Festival, Southbank, 24th June-19th July.  Click here for more info: 

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