Juggling act for man behind Chinese State Circus visit to Plymouth Pavilions
HUMOUR is a funny business. Don't buy into the idea that laughter is a universal language.
The man who sources acts for the Chinese State Circus knows that not all jokes cross cultural boundaries.
Artistic director Phillip Gandey has made over 200 trips to the east Asian country hunting for acts to bring to the UK.
"Some of the comedy is fantastic," he says. "But some of it would not work here.
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"I saw a fantastic impressionist who did lots of different birds and animals. He was very funny.
"But his big finale was an impression of a pig having its throat cut. It brought the house down!"
Fortunately there is no shortage of acts more in tune to British tastes on the current tour, which comes to Plymouth Pavilions on March 11 and 12.
"I've been putting these shows together for 20 years and I go all over China to see acts that talent scouts have spotted.
"You think you've seen it all and then there's one who makes you go 'wow'."
Current "wows" include some comedy which does translate: "a very funny" Monkey King character; Shaolin master, The One; and Phillip's personal favourite, a ballet duo.
"She does point work on his head and shoulders; absolutely sensational," he says.
Phillip is happy to report that despite the pace of change he has witnessed in his two decades visiting China, as the huge country has gone from economic backwater to genuine super power, the tradition of circus-style performance still thrives.
"The old skills that go back over 2,000 years are still there. Chinese circus performers are the best in the world. There is nowhere else where you can see skills like this.
"Circus is seen as a career. They will have been training for ten or 11 years before they start performing."
Expect, then, all the crowd pleasers, including aerial ballet on the silk ropes, lion dancers, hoop diving, the astonishing Chinese poles and more flips, tumbles and cartwheels than you could shake a chopstick at.
The show will also answer the question, "How many Chinese acrobats can you fit on a bicycle?"
Apparently the answer is "ten".
You can count the trick cyclists on March 11 and 12 when the Chinese State Circus visits Plymouth Pavilions.