There is a stone. A deep, obsidian black, it is wrapped in white cloth, held in a square of light, until a man comes to unwrap it. It is not something he's found, but something he has been drawn back to, a token of his past that he swallows and carries like the memory of a sin.
Sometimes it seems there's scarcely a juggler who's not deeply interested in mathematics and the sizeable body of music that closely abuts it.
Okidok got all kinds of laughs over the course of Slips Inside, but seemed particularly to generate isolated giggleloops that they would always stop to chastise, absolutely worsening the situation for whichever audience member was at that moment trying to control herself.
The Mill: a giant, suspended wheel, human-powered, wrapped in rope that runs out over a network of high pulleys to several smaller cogs. Four people tend it: one on the big wheel, one inside; two to perch upon the littler reels and walk them forward.
With the same director, same performers, and some of the same tricks, Canto nonetheless distinguishes itself from NoFit State's tabú as a warmer and wittier production—thrown together with greater haste yet more robust in the face of its own weaknesses; diffuse and open-ended but content to be so.
Played out on a raised square stage that tilts in all directions (slowly) as performers move their weight across it, Öper Öpis is the latest collaboration between clown Martin Zimmermann and DJ Dimitri de Perrot, featuring also a small assembled cast of European circus talents.
Plot: an angel falls from the sky into a sort of forest kingdom. He has lost his wings, and while trekking around to find them meets an insectile princess in a deep-green costume of spikes and ridges.
A couple move into an apartment, and it's wonderful. There's space for his office, light for her study. Great views. All their furniture fits, and the only friction is over whether the coffee table should be at an angle to the throwrug (stylish!) or neatly parallel to its edges. But then the phone rings.
The Royal Opera House's Firsts season, pulling together short work from dance, physical theatre and circus, is becoming an important stopping point for circus graduates: a chance to rethink and extend degree material, and a bridge between cabaret work and the very distant and distinct prospect of a full-length stage show.
Duvets and white linen lie in trails and heaps about the studio. Jeni Barnard and Barney White, Acrojou, have fed an elongated hatstand through the centre of their German Wheel and are lashing it to the bars. Fixing the stand, the bottom half of which looks like it might be the inner tube of a carpet roll, the two push the Wheel up onto a low pedestal. You can see how heavy it is—more or less a thick steel ladder worked into a circle, the German Wheel rolls easy on the flat but has to be heaved up an incline.
It’s not actually that rare—not so rare—to find narrative in circus, at least not the kind that plays on theatre stages, but it is quite unusual to see contemporary circus that engages in explicit, linear storytelling.
'I've worked a lot with circus artists, artists that are in Inside Out but also other artists, to find out what is the knowledge that they have about taking risks and balancing and dealing with the physical risk that they always have. But also with the mental... with the life situation in one way. A lot of circus artists, they prefer to have a moving life all over the world instead of having a house and a safe, secure living. And also a lot of circus history has been worked in—so a lot of the stories or the characters in the show have flavours from historical artists or stories.'
Sideshow interviews Tilde Björfors, artistic director of Cirkus Cirkör, about the company's super-success Inside Out, their collaboration with Irya's Playground, and their continuing work with research scientists in exploring the physical and neurological effects of circus.
Circus is relatively run-of-the-mill, almost a given, in the theatre I see, but acting and sets are out of the ordinary. Proteus' Dracula has both.
‘Attention spans will be even shorter than now, perhaps too short for words. Stitched together from the strongest limbs of circus, puppetry, movement and dance, visual theatre is an unconquerable monster destined to overcome all other modes of discourse.’ - Joseph Seelig, co-director, London International Mime Festival.
Sideshow searches for the strongest monsters in the 2010 line-up, including work from six countries and nine companies.
Within the first ten minutes two audience members have been pulled up on stage—Tom, who’s busy peddling the bike that provides the theatre’s electricity, and Saga, nervous and clutching a handbag, who’s philosophically brutalised by the ringmasterish whiteface.
After being substantially rained on earlier in the day I turned up at the Wales Millennium Centre wearing three different people’s clothes, including a too-small purple hoodie under an Iranian wool cardigan—by chance the perfect ensemble for Wardrobe Diaries.
Adrian Berry took over programming at Jacksons Lane in 2006, about the same time I started working as a listings editor for Total Theatre Magazine and reading all their season brochures and press releases.
Ockham’s Razor’s latest production plays out on a giant aerial wheel, man-sized, metal and wood, spiked by twin ridges of naked bolts: The Mill.
Sideshow talks to them about the difficulties and benefits of developing work for custom apparatus, their status as a circus company, and the addition of two new cast members—at the same time accidentally uncovering the provenance of the modern, running zombie.
It’s strange really that there aren’t more instances of magic realist or fabulist circuses. Fiction writers understand and use the overlap, but I think Milkwood Rodeo is the first piece of stage work I’ve seen that successfully stakes out ground in the territory.
A member of the audience is stepping over the guard rope and posing in front of the Colporteurs’ rig, a confused triple wire structure where the underbeams run slanted to the ground, hitting a pose while her friend takes a picture.
'We go into the circus because we know that there isn’t a script. We’re not playing someone else. I know actors will say “when I’m playing Macbeth I’m not playing someone else, I’m playing the Macbeth inside”, and that’s one school of acting. But essentially we go into circus because we don’t want to do someone else’s thing. We want to do our act. So what we’re doing is telling a personal—a really personal—story there. So why do you need another story?'
Circus and rope artist John-Paul Zaccarini talks about Circoanalysis—a blend of circus and psychoanalysis that aims to strip everything back to find the metaphors and stories at circus’ heart.
NoFit State at the Roundhouse, L’Amour de Loin at the English National Opera, Circa at Riverside Studios—a lot of the season’s biggest circus has fronted the City Circ label. Here Sideshow interviews Pam Vision and Marie Remy (Associate Producer and General Manager at Crying Out Loud, who're managing the project) about how the first year went and their plans for the future.
The damp cold and restless wind that blew through the open boards and wire fencing of Rojo’s miniature arena probably helped the performance as much as hindered it.
There’s a rather untypical theatre audience waiting to go into the Out of the Blue Drill Hall, a venue that’s a fair way out of Edinburgh’s centre—a long line of chattering twenty-somethings who look like they are up for a night of clubbing rather than a Fringe show.
Sideshow previews two big upcoming imports: James Thiérrée's Raoul at the Barbican and Cirkus Cirkör's Inside Out at the Peacock Theatre.
Airy speculation grounded by interviews with Pam Vision (from James Thiérrée's UK producer Crying Out Loud) and Lina B. Frank (one of two designers working with Cirkör on Inside Out).
Controlled Falling Project invites us to ‘enter a laboratory of acrobatic impossibilities, where old science meets new circus in a heart-stopping, high-energy creative experiment’ – and, for once, what we get is pretty much what it says on the can….
The wolves are very good. Otsoko is Gaitzerdi Teatro’s fire and circus remake of Little Red Riding Hood, and its first point of deviation from the original tale is to have a whole pack of wolves, these depicted by the snarling, loping cast, using crutches as forepaws and wearing muzzles and long dark coats with the spines picked out in lights.
If you want (or have) to experience it as such, the Edinburgh Fringe can be the world’s densest theatrical market: it’s possible to see eight shows a day for three weeks, and what you remember is usually the extremes—the shows that are either great and life-changing or harrowingly awful.
There’s a scene in Le Cirque Invisible where Victoria Chaplin walks out on stage with a number of furled umbrellas. She dances, and opens them one by one until they obscure her—more umbrellas than two hands could hold or control.