Monte Carlo Sidelights
One of the great pleasures of attending the Monte Carlo circus festival annually for the past fourteen years, as I have done, is meeting up again with friends I have made from around the world during all those past festivals. There is always something new to be learned from conversations on the bus to the circus, at press luncheons or on encounters on the midway or waiting for the show to begin.
For instance a UK animal trainer, whom I have often seen here in the U.S. as well as Monte Carlo, told me he has been working on a biography of legendary animal trainer Alfred Court. On another subject he told me that his conversations with current Ringling people suggest that the Greatest Show on Earth will expand each unit’s tour to four years. Not sure if that means major cities will get a second look at each show or not, but there will be no new production playing the New York area this year as Legends makes a return visit.
A South African circus owner told of confronting animal rights protesters and asking why they were harassing him when he hadn’t had animals in his show for four years. “Oh, we didn’t know,” they replied. Shows how woefully ill-informed these people often are. They see the word “circus” and immediately take up arms without bothering to ask questions or do some research.
I became engaged in a conversation with a gentleman when he mistook me for one of his friends. When I learned he was from Brussels I asked how the situation was there at the present time, thinking of the recent terrorism plaguing the city. “It’s terrible,” he said, “the animal rights people are…” Some things take precedence for circus people. In that same vein, people who came to Monte Carlo by way of Paris said the restaurants there were shockingly empty.
St. Paul’s Circus Juventas can now make a legitimate claim to being internationally famous. One of the sidelights of the recent festival was an exhibition of photographs taken by French photographer Alain Hanel during Circus Juventas’ most recent show. The photographs were on display over three floors of the Metropole Shopping Center, a very upscale venue near my hotel.
Perhaps the most interesting sidelight of the Festival was David Larible’s theatre piece Clown of Clowns, which was presented for just one performance on the one night in the schedule when there were no circus performances. It was staged at the Princess Grace Theater, a subterranean venue, that was, unlike the person for whom it was named, a rather dour, joyless venue. At breakfast the morning of the performance Larible told me he was apprehensive about playing to an audience made up entirely of circus people. He needn’t have worried; they greeted him warmly with several standing ovations. The performance was a benefit for the association that was supporting two elephants, Baby and Nepal, who had been saved from being put down by Princess Stephanie.
Larible was supported in the performance by a pianist and a single foil, who attempted unsuccessfully to squelch Larible’s comic playfulness. The show artfully incorporated a number of Larible’s most successful and familiar entrees and unerringly scored all its comic points during his 90 minutes on stage.