Zippos Circus at Winter Wonderland review: All the magic of the Big Top without the animals

An animal-free circus in Hyde Park still has a few hairy moments, finds Ben Dowell

Zippers Circus publicity still, BD
4.0 out of 5 star rating

Zippos Circus has a residency at Winter Wonderland, the annual festive fairground in Hyde Park, complete with a ringmaster, strongmen, stunning acrobatics… but no animals of course. Well, not live ones anyway.

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The Havana Quartet from Cuba (pictured below) are among a handful of dazzling performers in this hour of circus fun, and prove to be formidable-enough beasts in their own right. Three musclebound men and one woman perform feats of breathtaking strength and agility – at one point holding themselves all up with some spellbinding lifts, even while a child ran on to the stage. They barely blinked as the infant was hustled back by an anxious parent.

Zippos Havana troupe

But the most impressive moment was a death-defying feat of extraordinary agility from Claudio Diaz and his Wheel of Death (below). He mounts a huge tennis racket contraption hanging from the Big Top and walks on his giant wheel, then walks outside his giant wheel …. and then does the whole thing blindfolded. As you do.

Zippos Main

Unfortunately, on the day I went, Richard Cadell’s attempts to escape, chained, from a tank of water didn’t quite come off. The stunt was aborted midway through, forcing the crew to slosh the whole stage in water and mop up. It probably made things difficult for the performers who came after.

Cadell can also be seen at the same venue performing with Sooty and Friends. It was slightly bizarre to see him pop up in this circus act, but all credit to him for giving it a go. Maybe Sooty can help with a bit more practice.

But it didn’t take anything away from the whole experience, which was rounded off with an equally bizarre dance by four massive puppet polar bears (main picture), which has to be seen to be believed.

It’s a thrilling accompaniment to the high-octane fun to be had in Winter Wonderland – the rollercoasters, sweet stalls and bright lights of the massive fairground that takes up a good chunk of Hyde Park in the run up to Christmas and beyond.

If you can stomach the antics of Claudio Diaz, you’ll be more than ready for delights such as the “Wilde Maus XXL” rollercoaster, which is one of many adrenalin-pumping rides on offer.

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Hyde Park Winter Wonderland is open every day from 10am until 10pm until January 1 with the exception of Christmas Day.  For details visit hydeparkwinterwonderland.com