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The Scrivener: Spangles And Sawdust - Part Seven

Brian Barratt recalls the Flying Fruit Fly Circus, in which all the performers were childen, and other youthful circus performers.

Click on The Scrivener in the menu on this page and read earlier episodes of Spangles and Sawdusty, written in homage to the thousands of entertainers who have brought so much pleasure into the life of an ardent circus fan.


The circus is captivating for children to watch, but it is thrilling to see children joining their families in various acts, from the boy I saw in Winship Brothers show sixty years ago to the tiny, flexible Gomez girl and her lively brother who did the rag-doll routine at Circus Royale in the 1980s.

Towards the end of 198l, the Melbourne preparatory school of Geelong Grammar School put on their own circus, using a small tent with one king-pole, loaned by Ashtons. That was fun, in its own way, and every child in the school played a part.
Earlier, a group of folk took that idea to its logical end, and formed the Flying Fruit Fly Circus, which has toured with its diminutive Big Top for many years. All the performers are children, and the show is marvellous. I was quite surprised at the content, presentation and professionalism of the acts when I saw the circus in about 1984. I believe they have had extra training by visiting Chinese performers more recently. All credit to the organisers and backers, and ‘Boo!’ to the Government that withdrew funding from this venture.

That redoubtable magician, Paul Daniels, featured the Endresz Family in one of his television Magic Shows. The youngest member was a tiny 9-year-old called Lofty, who also did some juggling. He played with the standard three balls, and then manipulated four, which is the starting point for a professional. He then juggled with five balls. A talented little chap indeed! (The highest number I've seen being juggled is seven.)

A circus that made a profound impact on me was Los Muchachos, which visited Melbourne in 1975, using a Big Top provided by Ashtons. It was a two-ring circus with versatile acts presented at break-neck speed. This show was founded in Spain by a priest who came from a circus family. Its performers have appeared — either featured or in the background — in Spanish films that have been shown on our Special Broadcasting Service TV Channel 28 in Australia. They are all boys, aged from about 8 to 18.

Before the show started, the forty performers sat in the tiered seats with the audience, dressed in ordinary clothes. When the music commenced, they wandered down, gathered in the ring, and gradually moved into the background. One of them stayed in the ring, changing into clown's attire while he sang about his circus dreams, and the show then went into top gear. An imaginative and touching opening.

I took some children to this show, and was bitterly disappointed that it was so poorly attended. Only a handful of people were scattered around the tent, so I encouraged my small entourage to clap and cheer as loudly as possible. Those kids certainly deserved it.

© Copyright 2005 Brian Barratt


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