JONNY DOWNTOWN’s response to the brief “look after the media today” was to ply me with bubbly, then put me in the Globe Of Death with a guy on a motorcycle. Best. Day. Ever. Jonny knows me and knows what I like.
But I’m getting ahead of myself. Going out to Stellenbosch to The Fantastic Grifizzi Brothers’ opening day was a semi-spontaneous adventure, which then escalated fast. No sooner had we arrived than glasses were pressed into our hands and we were whirled around the grounds to see all the attractions. It’s a sensory overload of colours, sounds and smells and you wouldn’t even need a sugar rush from the concession stand to run a little wild – such behaviour is encouraged, I believe.
Part circus, part carnival, part fun fair, and the rest being made up of a fabulous all-day, all-night (okay, within reason) fun, TFGB has something for everyone and all ages (mental and physical).
It’s designed and produced by Richard Griffin and the uber talented team that brought us Madame Zingara so you know you’re in good hands. Crazy hands, but very good hands; these guys know exactly what they are doing when it comes to putting on great shows and immersive experiences full of delightful surprises. There are rides, there are bars, there are food trucks, there’s an old converted double decker Bohemian Bus where you can sit upstairs to eat and drink while you survey the goings-on below, there’s a barber shop (or “bar” -ber shop) in a vintage Belgian mirror tent. There is live music by Ann Jangle, vinyl vibes played by ultimate cool dude Jonny Downtown from the afternoon until after dark, and a tucked-away tent in which you have have your Tarot cards read.
Then there is the luscious pink and yellow striped tent in which The Story Of The Moon, a charming tale about the moon and her quest to be happy like the circus folk she sees below, is performed daily. The show, directed by Marc Colli and Christine Chapman and conceptualised by Richard Griffin, is MC’d by Lilian Khumalo as Mama Circus, alongside singer Carmen Maarman. The star cast of performers hail from South Africa and abroad, showcasing acrobatics, drumming, Argentinian boladeros, contortion, slapstick comedy and a mesmerising quick change act. Follow the Facebook page for updates about showtimes.
Among the performers is Gilberto Salgueiro Filho from Brazil, who does a strongman act, and one of those chair balancing acts which disproprtionately terrify me. I had no problem, however, getting into what we dubbed The Globe Of Death while he rode a motorcycle around me at high speed. Like I said, best day ever.
While I’d be happy to run away to join the circus, put on a tutu and do that six times a day, it’s not an activity for “normal” visitors. Can you even imagine the insurance and public liability. No. But you can watch Gilberto do his death-defying thing from a much safer distance.
In between all of this, we rode the Ferris Wheel with bubbly in hand, which was cool but frankly it paled slightly (as would most things) after The Globe Of Death; and stuffed our faces with succulent braai meat, corn on the cob, and salads from the buffet (two plate sizes, fill them up as much as you can), followed by Belgian waffles smothered in cream, chocolate sauce, syrup and sprinkled with pink mini marshmallows.
This we had outside the Bohemian Bus, which is one of the many food offerings which encircle the camp. We also had some amazing fish and chips from Gorgeous George’s. More options include burgers (I heard from several sources the falafel ones are the bomb); shakes, sweets and desserts; and of course the obligatory concession stand filled with candy, popcorn, candy floss, toffee apples and popcorn. If that doesn’t flood you with nostalgia, I don’t know what will.
Whether you see The Story Of The Moon show or not, the grounds and all its attractions are open for your pleasure and a truly spectacular day out. The children’s and adults’ areas are separated (alcohol and no alcohol), with plenty of colourful characters on hand to watch the little ones and keep them safe. Find The Fantastic Grifizzi Brothers at the Van der Stel Sports Club, Wednesdays to Sundays until August 27. Enter from Merriman Avenue off Adam Tas (R310), where there is plenty of parking. The entrance fee to the grounds is R40; the grounds and the show is R120 for children, R160 for adults. Rides cost R20-R40 with a full-day pass for R140.
For group bookings and special package and party deals for the Moon show, call the box office on 071 400 2250 and book online via www.thegrifizzibrothers.com. Follow The Grifizzi Brothers on Facebook via www.facebook.com/grifizzibrothers/ and on Instagram via @grifizzibrothers #FantasticGrifizziBrothers
Trivia: The original Ferris Wheel, sometimes also referred to as the Chicago Wheel, was designed and constructed by George Washington Gale Ferris Jr.. With a height of 80.4 metres (264 ft) it was the tallest attraction at the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago, Illinois, where it opened to the public on June 21, 1893.
PHOTO CREDIT: ALLISON FOAT, DIVA PR