Smitten by an armless, legless doll our hero Hans is drawn on a quest when she mysteriously disappears—a quest that in best traditions sees Hans encountering a string of bizarre characters and reliving such critical turning points in his life as the sudden death of his pet sheep (‘Roy! [sob, sob] Royyyy!’).
A lot of the time when circus is used as a metaphor in plays, it’s not—not really—a metaphor. It’s more just a backdrop and a texture: of mystery, timelessness, menace.
A short interview with Circa artistic director Yaron Lifschitz, talking mostly about his work on the latest show C!rca.
'I think, though, ultimately, circus functions like a poetry cycle rather than a narrative. Like I think it is the ultimate actual real-time artform. I find that circus that makes too much of its connectivity, its threads, generally doesn’t interest me very much. I figure the juxtaposition, placement, quarrels between things are as interesting as, you know, "narrative" for want of a better word. Our work isn’t narrative-based.'
Opening the circus stage on a brutally hot Sunday, Circomedia presented a short variety style line-up mixing degree and BTEC students. The clear standout was Steven Allen’s corde lisse routine—no gimmick, no overlay, just beauty in movement, and a blend of influences that borrows from other artists while retaining something of Steven’s own character.
Anonymous Ensemble’s Wanderlust brings us the story of Tall Hilda, a girl with legs that reach to the sky; a girl who runs away and lives the circus dream, now here to tell us her tall, tall tale.
A woman in red heeled shoes walks over the body of her partner, leaving red inflamed marks where she treads; an acrobat loses, regains, loses again the control of his limbs as he tumbles across the floor; an acrobalance duo continually set up and dismantle the trick that never comes.
Held in the Astroturf square outside the National Theatre where it was almost magically cursed by bad weather, I’m not sure how much of Watch This Space’s third week was either cancelled or abbreviated—but the days I was there the Gandinis (jugglers in residence) seemed like the perfect company to take the problems in their stride.
Drawing from their real experiences in the decade Emma Norin, Lina Johansson and Silvia Fratelli have spent training and performing together as Mimbre, Until Now is an attractive, friendly half hour of acrobatics and clowning that probably needs to be wound back a little in its development.
‘I say to lighting people I want it to look kind of like it might have looked in the late Victorian times and they say ‘well you know those lights they were horrible, they were green’. But I don’t want the reality of it, I want what you imagine the reality of it was. Sort of golden, twingling.’
Sideshow interviews Mark Copeland, fine artist, model-maker and owner and ringmaster of the Insect Circus.
'From a fine art point of view, if there was any point to it, it was to suggest not to believe everything that you read.'
Tedros Girmaye devastates club-wielding ninjas; Pablo Meneu Barreira breaks free on straps after brushing his teeth continuously for 30 years; Maximilià Calaf Sevé is …Somewhere… Nowhere! in a hot dusty trampoline solo that draws inspiration from the writing of Paul Auster; frustrated Circus Space janitor Sergio Gonzalez Gallego impresses the ladies with acrobatics cribbed from the real students.
Following the collaboration in 2007 with Improbable on Philip Glass’ Satyagraha, the ENO have now turned from puppetry and devised theatre to circus, bringing in Daniele Finzi Pasca (Cirque du Soleil and Éloize) to direct a staging of Kaija Saariaho’s L’Amour de Loin.
Working counter to the forces of Fringe entropy, Sideshow will be in-depth previewing a couple of circus and circus-inclusive Edinburgh shows over the coming weeks. First up is Bristol-based dance-multimedia-theatre collective Precarious, who are premiering anomie this year at Zoo Southside. It tells the story of six characters living together in an apartment block, oblivious to each other but with lives intertwined—and uses aerial work to loft its characters above the urban scene and move its choreography into 3D space.
In synopsis Sputnik has a tremendous draw: it’s a collaboration between Sharmanka (he of the theatre of kinetic automata) and Fittings Multimedia Arts (who make ‘new performance and theatre art works addressing serious issues in the language of variety theatre’).
In a festival overloaded with interesting collaborations Greenwich+Docklands this year brought together Australian street arts and circus company Strange Fruit, who work atop custom four-metre sway poles, with disabled-led theatre company Graeae.
A double review of two recent productions that combine aspects of hip-hop (music or dance) with circus performance: Tom Tom Crew at the Udderbelly, and Avant Garde Dance (with Gemma Palomar and Telma Pinto)'s The Silver Tree, part of the Paradise Gardens festival.
The concept for this year’s Circomedia showcase is a reality show where audience votes are disregarded, circus performers competing for stage time while behind the scenes an embittered cleaner looks to ruin the show.
Stilt-walking has always been the most lavishly costumed circus discipline—a lot of times the pleasure is in seeing the bespoke detailing and the ways in which the weaknesses of stilts (the need to cover up the legs, the jerky movement) have become strengths of the design (cloven hooves for pegs, insectile limbs, giant stilt robots, etcetera).
Wayward children, lost lovers, murder, cannibalism(?), suicide to protect another, madness--Cirxus is a multi-strand distributed story where the audience are free to walk about the performance space--a warehouse round back of the Arcola’s main theatre--encountering characters who themselves move constantly, following separate tracks that complexly intersect.
The great pleasure of this circus is the microscopic detail that has gone into the production of everything from its old letterpress-style posters to the £1 souvenir programmes that are hawked pre-show by Nurse Nursey.
I’ve been a dedicated stalker—wait, wait, supporter—of Ockham’s Razor since I first saw them perform Every Action at Circus Futures in 2006. About 20 minutes long, played out on a length of rope run over two raised pulleys, it’s a sweetly inventive aerial farce which, like a lot of their work, gets right to the soul of circus.
If you’re going I recommend tanking up beforehand. Not entirely facetiously; when you first walk in and the performers greet you and talk to you like they’ve known you forever a little alcohol will probably smooth over the dialogue.
Ilona Jäntti is a tremendous aerialist. She’s been in circus a long time and has the consequent deep well of physical resources, but it’s style, really, that sets her apart: graceful but not too-clean, having an all-body approach where elbows, teeth, anything can be used to keep her in the air.
I might as well be at the Eurovision Song Contest. Awful brassy music is playing as lights sweep across the tent and stage and performers march on from either wing, waving national flags. Topless men; women in spangly leotards; obvious clowns. A troupe of girls in white appear to continue Chinese circus’ gleeful indiscriminate sacking of western popular culture by wearing ten identical Uma Thurman Pulp Fiction wigs. As the lights swing out to rake the front audiences the compere welcomes us to the 30eme Festival Mondial du Cirque de Demain, held here in the enormous 2000-seat Cirque Phenix in an outlying park in south-eastern Paris. He is actually welcoming me for the fifth time.
Quidam was probably amazing once. A bored young girl is transported from her parents’ world into another place: a dreamland where she encounters strange and sometimes frightening characters, led all the while by a puckish guide who ultimately reunites her with her mother and father.