Staying In Tonight?


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Fortune’s Wheel.

On RTÉ One at 9.35pm.

Gareth Naughton writes:

Fortune’s Wheel is a documentary feature film about Bill Stephens, an ordinary young man in 1950s Ireland with an extraordinary ambition: to become an international circus star.

It is also a love story about Bill and his young and beautiful wife Mai, from East Wall. Their double act, Jungle Capers, Bill Stephens and Lovely Partner, was a series of death-defying feats with a troupe of lions and dogs designed to thrill audiences in the circus tent and on the stage.

With this act they hoped to break free from the suffocating reality of Irish life, but things went terribly wrong when, in November 1951, one of their animals escaped.

The story gained national and international attention at the time, but it is only now – after 60 years of silence – that two families and a community have come together to tell the story in full.

7 thoughts on “Staying In Tonight?

  1. Pádraig

    ‘A lovely, gentle man’. Not the words I’d use to describe someone who took a whip to an animal to force it to obey, all the while locked up in a cage.

    Let’s keep the ‘Fond memories’ of animals in circuses just that.


    It’s 2016, and time to evolve. It’s long past time that we bid farewell to forcing animals to endure captivity and pain simply in the name of entertainment.

    Dublin City Council only in the past number of weeks have banned all circuses involving wild animals to use their lands. This follows numerous other forward thinking councils.

    It’s a slow and long path educating people as to the cruelty of animal circuses but we are slowly getting there.

    The cruel methods used to force animals to behave in a non- normal way and in unnatural surroundings have to be seen to be believed. Electrocution, beatings etc are all part of the circus’ repertoire.

    Only this year Ringling Brothers circus in the USA retired their long suffering elephants from circus life, and only because of animal rights groups highlighting the abuse the animals suffered.

    Hopefully soon, Ireland will also see the cruel reality and call for a ban on all animals who suffer each and everyday in circuses throughout Ireland.

    1. sǝɯǝɯʇɐpɐq

      What are your feelings on Boybands?
      Some of the stuff they’re made to do by their trainers (like Louis and Simon) is disgraceful.

      1. Sheik Yahbouti

        They ask for it, they clamour for it, they DESERVE it – they’ll do anything to become a z list celebrity. If you can’t see the difference I can’t help you.

    2. Quisling

      Yes, Padraig, this is all true and correct and modern circuses are barbaric. However we can’t judge the past by the standards of today, and we are talking about the early 50s here. There were barely human rights for certain strata of society, never mind animal rights.

      BTW watched the doc and apart from a little shoddy editing, it was really good.

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