On a grey night that threatened rain, we are welcomed into the warmth of the Giffords family circus. June weather may disappoint but Giffords never fails to deliver.

Immaculately painted maroon and gold trucks surround the mingling audience, chatting to the thrum of the double bass and banjo amongst fresh flowers tumbling from giant vases, clasping delicious cocktails or bags of candyfloss. But we are really here for the circus, the arching striped tent straight out of a children’s picture book that reaches up into the sky.

This year's theme, Avalon, transports the audience to the Medieval world of Camelot, albeit with added glitter and considerably more silliness. The show seamlessly combines high-quality acts from around the world with its endearing, village green charm. The Giffords Circus band, as always, delivers exceptional music, fusing medieval inspired sounds with popular classics that drive the show forwards.

Nell O’Hara, as MC Guinevere, in a gorgeous pink and gold velvet robe, sets the scene for the evening with a welcome to Camelot. Her costume, like all others, is undoubtedly handmade, just one of the many layers of detail and craftsmanship which you rarely find.

Unlike many circus’ these days, the clowning is central, with a perfect balance of choreographed routines and cheeky improvisation. Maximiliano Stia, playing Merlin, begins with fire eating and moves on to decapitations, all performed with a beguiling humour that had both me and my toddler hooked. He is also very huggable as my son discovered at the interval. As is his co-star, Tyler West, playing Cuthbert. He utterly irresistible, whether in a Maid Marian costume or flailing around on roller-skates.

There are no dull moments as each act has personality and skill. Highlights for us included Nick Hodge, as King Arthur, mesmerizing with his rope and wheel act, Morgan Barbour and Victoria Seir’s aerial hoop and teeth-hanging acts, the brother and sister act, Dylan and Asia Medini and The Godfathers whose people pyramids are quite frankly awesome.

Pat Clarrison and Pip Ashley bring a heart-warming silliness to the show with their troupe of dogs, all adopted or rescued from shelters across Europe and Latoya Donnert with her miniature pony adds a delightful moment of beauty and calm.

Giffords Circus Avalon at Chiswick House & Gardens is an unforgettable experience and the perfection introduction to circus for children. Despite the dreary weather, the warmth, charm, and sheer talent of the Giffords Circus family shine through, creating a night filled with simple wonder and joy.

Photo credit: Emily Jo West