THE fabulous and magical Giffords Circus is a breath of fresh air, a reminder of simpler, but no less impressive, entertainment, in a world where everything is computerised and automated, airbrushed and tweaked to create the illusion of perfection, .

From the live musicians, handwritten tickets and home made cakes available in the interval to the manual hoisting of acrobats high above the audience, there is no sign at Giffords of the 21st century reliance on technology.

Instead, in the 2011 show - War and Peace - we were treated to the unique charm that is Giffords, plenty of circus skills threaded along the narrative of a (necessarily) pared down version of the Russian classic. Full of drama, rousing music and some inspired clowning from Tweedy the Clown, back with Giffords after two years touring America, the circus acts have been seamlessly incorporated into the story - like the wonderful silks artiste who becomes Natasha’s dream self, and every juggler and acrobat becomes a character.

There is drama aplenty - Nell Gifford as Helene, wife of the wealthy Pierre Bezukhov, imperiously mounted sidesaddle as she rides out hawking and Napoleon Bonaparte making a dramatic appearance. And as the Russians fight and a young soldier falls, you’d have sworn you were out on the Russian steppes as snow, yes snow, unbelievably fell from the roof and the temperature seemed to drop at least 10 degrees.

To reveal too much of the detail of this magically dramatic show wouldn’t be fair - the element of surprise is essential, and the intimacy of the (small) Big Top at Giffords creates a real sense of wonder because you can see so clearly that the skills on display are finely honed human skills, with not a jot of techno intervention.

Giffords Circus will be performing in the castle grounds in Hay-on-Wye until Sunday, June 6. For show times and booking details, visit