Review: Great Yarmouth Hippodrome's Pirates Online!

Jack Jay, Johnny Mac, James Franklin and the cast of Pirates Online! from the Great Yarmouth Hippodrome Circus

Jack Jay, Johnny Mac, James Franklin and the cast of Pirates Online! from the Great Yarmouth Hippodrome Circus - Credit: Great Yarmouth Hippodrome Circus

The show must go on(line)!

Last year, the Pirates at Great Yarmouth’s Hippodrome Circus were in lockdown, this year they’re live again, albeit on the small screen rather than on stage.

The Hippodrome’s usually sold-out live Easter show has been cancelled for the second year running, but there’s an online alternative for those missing their circus fix: and it’s fantastic.

Stephanie MacDonald, mermaid aerialist at the Great Yarmouth Hippodrome Circus

Stephanie MacDonald, mermaid aerialist at the Great Yarmouth Hippodrome Circus - Credit: Great Yarmouth Hippodrome Circus

If there’s a better way to entertain the family during what feels like the millionth day stuck indoors with nothing to do on a grey, cold day then I am struggling to recall it.

For £10, you can watch Pirates Online! for two whole weeks of unlimited viewing – just add popcorn and a bag of chips for the bit where you’d leave the circus and head to the seafront at Yarmouth.

When I reviewed the Christmas 2020 Spectacular in person at the circus, I said that we’ve never needed the circus more than we do now – the same sentiment remains, only this time they need us as much as we need them.

The Hippodrome Circus was recently denied support from the Arts Council in the latest round of the Cultural Recovery Fund.

It came as a huge and concerning blow to one of Norfolk – and the UK’s – most important historical performance venues and means that finding alternative revenue streams is of vital importance in order to survive until summer.

Luckily, when it comes to innovation, the Jay family are the (ring)masters.

Last year, the Hippodrome led the way for the arts when it became the first theatre in the UK to reopen after the first lockdown and the venue continued to offer shows despite the difficulties of social distancing and bringing artistes from across the world.

The Serik Brothers aerial strap act at the Great Yarmouth Hippodrome Circus

The Serik Brothers aerial strap act at the Great Yarmouth Hippodrome Circus - Credit: Great Yarmouth Hippodrome Circus

“We couldn’t have done any more to deliver shows last year,” said circus owner Peter Jay, “we have spent the last 40 years of our lives trying to save this amazing building and once again make it thrive and until last year we’ve never been offered any funding help in doing so.”

Last year there was funding help from the Cultural Recovery pot which went a little way towards producing the annual shows.

Company director Ben Jay added: “Being closed for large parts of last year and then attempting to work with all the restrictions in place to open has been an incredible struggle.

“We managed to deliver our world-class level of shows for our community throughout the year, however with various lockdowns and closures it came to a huge financial loss for our company.”

His brother, and show producer and star Jack said: “Now more than ever we need the support of our community.”

And, after watching the show as the Easter snow (!) fell outside and the wind carried the plastic greenhouse down the garden, I can assure you that helping a world class venue and a great cause doesn’t get any more enjoyable than this…

Johnny Mac, Jack Jay and James Franklin in Pirates Online! from the Great Yarmouth Hippodrome Circus

L to R: Johnny Mac, Jack Jay and James Franklin - Credit: Great Yarmouth Hippodrome Circus

Your online ticket takes you to into the magical watery world of Captain Jack Hawkseye (Jack Jay), Pirate Johnny (Johnny Mac) and evil Captain Blackeye (James Franklin) and his band of cut-throat buccaneers.

You’ll meet mermaids and an octopus, spend time on a 40ft pirate galleon, learn the Rum Rhyme and along the way take in some breath-taking circus acts including the cloudswing, aerial chains, fire-breathers, aerialists, dancers, swimmers, acrobats and gymnasts.

Filmed in the historic Hippodrome Circus building, the show is beautifully shot and lit and boasts stunning visual and sound effects, and views of the stage you may never have seen before. 

It’s a chance to fully-immerse yourself in a show that gives you the rare opportunity to see the action and the acts at very close quarters.

Captain Jack and Pirate Johnny defend Great Yarmouth from evil Captain Blackeye

Captain Jack and Pirate Johnny defend Great Yarmouth from evil Captain Blackeye - Credit: Great Yarmouth Hippodrome Circus

Jay, Mac and Franklin (my favourite baddie of them all) have an incredible chemistry that comes from having worked together for so many years and the wit is rapier sharp – there are lots of laugh-out-loud moments and gags that will please all the family.

As Captain Jack and Pirate Johnny try to defend the port of Great Yarmouth against Captain Blackeye and his ruthless crew, the plot is interspersed with fabulous acts such as Salvatore Sambito on the cloudswing and aerial chains and the Tanzanian Warriors acrobats.

Performer Johnny Mac in Pirates Online! at Great Yarmouth Hippodrome Circus

Johnny Mac in Pirates Online! at Great Yarmouth Hippodrome Circus - Credit: Great Yarmouth Hippodrome Circus

As usual, the Estelle Clifton Dancers and Swimmers are swash-bucklingly great – the mermaid swimmers in particular are quite mesmerising as they try to lure Captain Blackeye into the deep.

While nothing will replace the live shows, this filmed experience does offer a novel way to watch the circus – for a start, you can pause the action if you need to, you can re-watch sections or the whole thing, and the detail you can see is spellbinding.

The cast of Pirates Online! on the pirate galleon at Great Yarmouth Hippodrome Circus

The cast of Pirates Online! on the pirate galleon at the Great Yarmouth Hippodrome Circus - Credit: Great Yarmouth Hippodrome Circus

It’s almost balletic in parts, dreamy and beautiful, while in others it’s raucous and fast-paced – it’s a show that ticks every box and it’s the perfect antidote to a frozen Easter holiday when your young pirates are just downright irate.

Your circus needs you: roll up, roll up, enjoy the show and play your part in keeping this wonderful institution alive.

* Pirates Online! is streaming now. Buy your tickets at https://hippodromecircus.co.uk/pirates

Become a Supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Become a Supporter
Comments powered by Disqus