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Video: Clowning around as Zippos Circus arrives at East Ham

07:32 09 May 2014

Reporter Sophie Morton tests her circus skills at Zippos Circus, East Ham.

Reporter Sophie Morton tests her circus skills at Zippos Circus, East Ham.

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Can you teach a reporter new tricks? That was the aim as Sophie Morton spent a morning with Zippos Circus on its arrival in East Ham

Reporter Sophie Morton tests her circus skills next to professional juggler Billy at Zippos Circus, East Ham.Reporter Sophie Morton tests her circus skills next to professional juggler Billy at Zippos Circus, East Ham.

On arrival at Barking Road Recreation Ground, the temporary home for Zippos Circus during its visit to East Ham, I was whisked away to a truck where brothers Oreste and Vittorio Rastelli were applying their make-up.

The Italian duo perform a traditional clown act in the circus, and are the latest in a family of performers stretching back several generations.

“Every clown has their own face,” Vittorio explained while Oreste applied red and white paint to me. “It’s like their trademark.”

My appearance was left completely to the experts, and after a few attempts at perfecting my nose, I was given a red hat and sent on my way.

Reporter Sophie Morton with ringmaster Norman Barrett at Zippos Circus, East Ham.Reporter Sophie Morton with ringmaster Norman Barrett at Zippos Circus, East Ham.

Standing in the middle of the ring, the big top seemed even bigger than it did from the outside.

Ringmaster Norman Barrett introduced me to contortionist Odko, who showed me her talent of fitting inside a bottle.

My first task as a circus performer was simply to close the door when she was inside - so far, so good.

The next challenge was much more difficult.

Aerial silks artist Stefanie Usher performs at Zippos Circus, East HamAerial silks artist Stefanie Usher performs at Zippos Circus, East Ham

Two pieces of purple silk hung down from the ceiling, and as I watched Stefanie climb up and down them with ease, I suddenly felt rather nervous.

For someone who struggled on the monkey bars as a child, using my arms to hoist me high in the air was going to prove a challenge.

Stefanie showed me how to wrap my leg and foot around the silk before pushing down with my other foot at the same time as pulling myself up with my arms.

Several failed attempts later, the silks were lowered to give me more material to use and eventually I managed to pull myself up - though nowhere near as high as Stefanie could get.

Next up on my list of circus challenges was juggling.

Coached by Billy, who juggles during the shows, I managed to get the three balls passing through the air a couple of times before a lack of coordination - and possibly small hands - let me down.

Trying to toss three plastic rings in the air was even more difficult, but thankfully Norman and his budgies came to my rescue, providing a welcome change of pace. He demonstrated a few of their tricks, including a slide and a cart, before showing me to the van where they are kept.

“I absolutely love it,” he said. “It’s not something you could do if you didn’t love it.”

As much as I enjoyed my morning learning new skills, I don’t think I’ll be packing it all in and running away to join the circus just yet.

Read more:

Review: Zippos Circus

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