Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Under the Big Top

Artist's rendering of a circus actually working
like it should.
     Have you ever been to a bad show?  Like, a truly horrible piece of entertainment that just wasn't worth the price of admission?  Sure you have.  And it sucks.  You just feel angry and let down and you are usually out a significant amount of money, and the whole situation is just awful.  The worst part is that there really isn't anything that you can do to get your money or time or anything back.  There is very little recourse available to those of us who get screwed by the entertainment industry.  You can't ask George Clooney for your money back because his latest movies sucked, this isn't South Park.  But have you ever thought about just calling the police?
     That's what someone in the Belarussian city of Vitebsk did when a Russian circus came to town and failed to live up to its hype.  At the first show, the audience noticed that many of the performers seemed drunk - artists were repeatedly falling off bicycles and jugglers were consistently dropping their props - and several animals that were promised to be part of the show were missing.  While people advertisements promised "jugglers and midgets, fantasy heroes and performing animals" including black bears, crocodiles, monkeys, "orcs and taurantons" which I have never heard of or seen in the wild or seen at ZooBoise, when the performance began there were only some poodles and a crocodile, and the crocodile didn't even have the decency to eat one of the poodles.
      As one could imagine, the audience got upset pretty quickly.  By the intermission of the first show on the first day - January 2 - they were demanding their money back.  During the tumult the police were called, not on the rowdy spectators but by a spectator, and the proceeded to sweep in and question the circus performers.  Some were even administered breathalyzers to see if they were intoxicated.  As it turns out, they were sober, but when you fall off your bicycle three times in two minutes, I believe that it is safe to say you are not very talented.
      Well, right after being questioned by the police the circus packed up and left Vitebsk, but they gave a couple of answers before they split, mostly pertaining to the missing animals.  Yekaterina Kudasheva, administrator of the circus presented by the Student Association of Kostroma, variously said that the animals were stuck at customs, or "were outside Moscow" which doesn't do anyone any good because that isn't even in the same country as where the circus was.
      And so the repercussions have begun.  Police in Belarus are investigating whether any crimes have been committed, although I sort of doubt it since the performers were sober unless there is some truth in advertising law they have violated, lawyers for Vitebsk's Palace of Sport (where the circus was held) are looking into how they can recover their money from the circus, and Palace of Sport director Igor Kalmuk has told the newspaper that the 10,000 ruble (approx $3) tickets would be refunded.  So things are and will continue to shake out. 
      But what about the children, I can hear you ask, Company.  What about the parents and children who slogged through the blizzard only to be deprived of the circus they came to see?  A New Year's event of this magnitude is rare for Vitebsk, you know.  How did you know that, Company?  How did you know all that stuff was true?  Because it is.  Well, they will get their money back, and the children will learn a valuable lesson about disappointment and carnies, or at least circus folk.  And they will survive, since they are children and will forget in a couple of weeks anyway.  But I feel sort of bad for them, and a little bad for the circus performers who where trying but just sucked balls.  I don't blame them for skipping town - they probably would have been lynched.  Life will go on in Vitebsk, and I am sure the cops will be on high alert next time the circus comes to town.

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