A few days ago, the head of the General Entertainment Authority of Saudi Arabia has been sacked. And allegedly, it’s because of the appearance of a female performer in “immodest” or “indecent” clothing at a circus being presented in Riyadh. When the news came, there were two circus performing in Riyadh. One is the Russian Circus at the Princess Noura University and the other one is the Hollywood Circus at Granada Square. News mentions the “Russian circus” but every time I search for the viral video or post that allegedly ignited this issue, I see a performer in pink unitard who I saw in the Hollywood Circus. So there’s a bit of a confusion there. Well, we’re not even sure if it’s really the issue.
Anyway, acrobats are used to wearing clothes that will conform to what they are performing. Skin tight clothes are needed so that they can act and perform to the best of their abilities without anything impeding it. Any other more complicated clothes than a unitard may wound them up on the fabrics suspended in the ceiling or any mechanism they’re using for their act. For sure, whatever their outfits were, their safety were taken into consideration first. Of course, Saudi Arabia has rules and regulations and it would have been probably better to not have women perform if it will cause an issue of that proportion. There are a lot of opinions out there but a circus is for entertainment and we’re sorry to hear that issues escalated over it. We didn’t watch the Russian Circus but we went to the Hollywood Circus by Cirque Du Liban near Granada Mall. If you’re still interested to see it, read on.
A few months ago, we already saw the circus tent being setup in the empty lot near Granada Center. We didn’t know what it was at first until I saw the Cirque Du Liban text on the sides. I immediately Googled what Cirque Du Liban is and saw in their website that they’re a circus scheduled to perform in Riyadh. Cirque Du Liban is a Lebanese circus group. There were no details yet on their website but I messaged their Facebook page and they forwarded a Riyadh number that I can inquire with. I promptly texted the number and they replied that the circus will start at the end of Ramadan and the beginning of the Eid holiday. They also told me to check Liveshow Arabia for the tickets which will be coming out soon.
When the tickets in Liveshow Arabia finally became live, I considered our options. It was a pretty much round tent with hundreds of seats around a center stage. Ticket prices start from SR 75 and goes up to SR 300. I don’t think we need to buy that SR 300 to see the circus up close and personal so we settled for the SR 120 seats. I chose Bloc 1 which is in the center of the tent and the system automatically gave us seats 1, 3 and 5 in Row F, which is the nearest row to the next ticket section (the SR 150 row). It’s the closest to the stage we can be in our SR 120 ticket. The circus has 2 shows per day: one at 5:00 PM and the second at 8:30 PM. We also went on the very first day so I can report to you guys what goes on this circus. And of course, to be able to write this guide and review. *wink*
The day came, June 15, 2018, a Friday. My husband and I picked up one of our most favorite kids in Riyadh, Elro, the son of our family friends. He is 6 years old and we’re pretty sure he’ll enjoy the circus. He was really excited at first. The ticket said that gates will be open by 4:30 PM for the 5:00 PM show. We were in the parking lot of the Hollywood Circus by around 4:30 PM but the gate is closed still. There were other people milling around the area. A few minutes before 5:00 PM, a guy announced that the only thing open in the venue is the circus itself and one of the restaurants inside, Salt. The rest of the other activities, games, and shops inside the venue (but outside the circus tent) are still not ready. That’s why in my update in The Pink Tarha Facebook page, I urged people to get tickets for the next week following the opening week so that everything will be open and can be enjoyed by then.
We entered the venue and saw that most of the kiosks and decors outside were still being constructed! It would have been more enchanting to see everything working by then. Anyway, we proceeded to line up at the door of the circus tent. After checking our tickets, we were led to a welcome tent where spectators can buy popcorn and drinks.
We then went inside the main tent where it’s mostly red and our eyes needed some time getting used to. The music was loud (Elro had his hands on his ears hahaha) and we can feel a palpable excitement from the crowd. It’s easy to locate the seats, if you pay attention to the signs and the map that was in the ticket website. Otherwise, the ushers and usherettes were really helpful. The seats we were assigned to were pretty close to the stage already. Actually, most seats were close and if you’re on a budget, the SR 75 seats are pretty good already. They’re high enough to see all that’s happening in the stage below.
The show started late (I’m not surprised). A little before 6:00 PM, announcements were made and the lights dimmed. The circus has finally began!
***SPOILERS AHEAD*** If you haven’t seen the Hollywood Circus in Riyadh and want to see it and be surprised with the performances, please stop reading!
The first act featured two men running round and round a contraption that looks like a seesaw with rings on both ends. It turns like a clock and the men, each in their own cylinder, runs and walks and even jumps! It was very entertaining performance and a great way to start the show. Even Elro was impressed.
A circus is not complete without clowns. The painted performers in crazy, eclectic, baggy and colorful clothes aim to make fun of themselves and the audience. They were supposed to be funny and engaging. The two clowns in this circus were used to entertain the audience while the staff get ready for the next act. Behind them, the technical staff were pulling in and out the equipment and tools needed for the next huge performers. The clowns were okay and they tried their best to engage with the audience but their timing coupled with the mismatched music made it hard for the audience to get in tune to what they were acting about. I mean, we often times had a “late reaction” to their patawa because we couldn’t understand what was supposed to be going on with their interaction. I think we were more distracted with what’s going on behind them. The kids would have been more entertained if they gave out long balloons shaped into animals. Elro was asking for one and we couldn’t blow up the balloon handed to my husband. Haha. Ubos hininga eh.
Acrobats are mainstays in circus so we weren’t surprised to see an acrobatic/gymnastic act in the show. We’re actually surprised to see that the performer is female in her black unitard. At first we were like, oooh they agreed for her to wear this and perform but after a few seconds, we were just enthralled with her performance. She was bending and dangling in a long cloth suspended high above. It was a brave and graceful act. It was followed by other acrobats, another female, and then there were two males near the end of the show that also performed together. It was an amazing display of core body agility and strength.
The tightrope acts were breathtaking. In our language, maka-pigil hininga! The performers balancing on a taut wire high above ground were amazing! Some of them walk solo, other with acts between them. They were tumbling and acting like falling (bless my heart). And then the entire group, connected with each other by poles, balanced on the rope in one go. Oh my good lawd! These wire walkers were amazing! I’m sure they’ve done this for a thousand times and practiced this move a lot but it was still scary for the audience but good job, guys! They did it smoothly and without a glitch.
In between these main acts were dog shows. They brought out several dogs, some Dalmatian, and their keeper/trainer displayed a series of tricks. The dogs were adorable and very playful and smart. There were also tap dancing, role playing, and exhibitions in trampolines. There was a 10-minute break in the 2-hour show. People can go and buy food. Elro was looking forward to the cotton candy (because cotton candy is such a circus treat) but they didn’t sell it that day.
The grand finale involved a huge sphere ball and performers in motorcycles. I believe this is often called the “Globe of Steel”. This is a carnival stunt where stunt men ride motorcycles and loop vertically and horizontally inside the mesh sphere ball. It’s the most exciting act but also the scariest. One wrong move and who knows what will happen inside that globe right? But this is why only the experts and professionals perform this. Safety precautions were in place. One by one, the riders entered the globe and means of centripetal force, they manoeuvre and ride their way inside. Please don’t ask me about the physics that go into this act. It will involve calculations and I’m a writer for a reason. Hahaha.
Okay, so overall, is it worth going to the Hollywood Circus? Hmn. Will it be your first time to see a circus? Or maybe your kids’ first? Well then, yes. No high expectations means expectations will be met. For someone who have watched a circus already in other parts of the world, you might find this circus lacking. There were serious lag moments wherein they were preparing for the next act and there was nothing for the audience to do but wait. Elro, who is a kid just to remind you again, was asking us when will it end so that he can go home already. And he’s a kid!!! Haha. He felt bored and yes, there were boring segments. I wish they made it more exciting and fun, like what a circus is supposed to be. I was expecting a moment of “high-ness” when I walk out of the circus tent (you know that feeling when you’re so giddy with what you saw that you can’t help but feel the excitement in your body and brain even after exiting the venue?) but there was little to none.
Not to mention what was going on outside. There were games and there was SALT, the restaurant that offers burgers, sodas and ice cream but there was little to do. Not sure if they came up with side shows to complement the venue with the circus tent. There were swings nearby and free ice cream from Careem which were nice add-ons though. (There is a chance that this improved already since it’s been a week since they opened.)
The tent itself is a bit warm and the seats were a bit small. Not sure if it’s because I’m just chubby, haha. Seriously, if you’re sensitive to cramp and crowded places, this is not for you. There are instances when it can become a bit stuffy. You can, of course, go out and take a breather and come back again. I guess that’s what the break in between main acts are for.
We’re glad that Saudi Arabia has opened up to this events already though. It’s nice to know there are now options. We just hope tickets are not so expensive. Haha. The SR 75 ticket is good already. Bloc 1 or 2. We suggest that’s what you get. The staff of the event are helpful and friendly and that helps make this event a success.
Did you catch the Hollywood Circus in town already? Share with us your experience!
Ash Shuhada, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia
Runs until June 30, 2018
Silver – SR 75 / Gold – SR 120 / Diamond – SR 150 / VIP – SR 300 (VAT exclusive)