Bringing the scale and colour of the circus from the big top to the small screen represents a unique challenge. There are not many online clown shows out there, just one of the ways that Tonino Scalia’s The Webcam Circus Show manages to make a statement even before the show begins. The final result never quite lives up to the sheer spectacle of the circus; but Scalia wears this fact on his sleeve during a performance that is full of all the colour and laughter needed to keep a younger audience thoroughly entertained.
The Webcam Circus Show bursts with genuine enthusiasm for online theatre, somersaulting into living rooms with energy and humour. Scalia takes on the roles of Mr. Loyal the ringmaster (in pre-recorded segments) and Ninetto, who brings the show to life with all the cheekiness and enthusiasm you would expect from a seasoned clown. His whole act, from magically walking on eggs to ‘balancing’ precariously on a ‘tightrope,’ blend simple but effective visual tricks with an animated, lively performance. Audio distortion may make it difficult to understand what he is saying, but you’d never likely hear him anyway over the sound of gleeful cackles emanating from the kids in the audience.
Interspersed throughout the show are lessons on the history of the circus, complete with fascinating (and publicly available) archive footage reels. These situate the show within the wider history of circus and, more poignantly, reminds us of what we are missing out on – even if one or two details like including live animals are inevitably dated. That wondrous circus atmosphere is never quite captured here. Especially in the early stages – where it is more just Scalia prancing around for the fun of it – anybody over the age of 10 might initially struggle to get invested. But over time Scalia ensures that this is a show not purely for kids, but one to be enjoyed as a family.
A hybrid show that embraces the virtual space, The Webcam Circus Show is best enjoyed as part of a medium-sized group. Too few audience members and it can feel awkward; too many and it is overly raucous for Zoom. Regardless though, there is guaranteed fun to be had with a disarming, loveable host who brings his all to this digital reimagining of the circus.