Seven Tips On Becoming A Circus Performer

International hula hoop star Lisa Lottie recently spoke to us about her journey from the streets of London and Brighton to appearances in India, Australia and Canada. She has a wealth of experience garnered from experiences around the globe performing in a variety of venues and events. So, who better to ask about the dos and don’ts of becoming a circus performer?

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If you too are considering running away to the circus it may be prudent to take on board some of the hard-won and valuable advice Lottie dishes out below:

Do:

  • Watch shows as many as you can. If you’re under 26 and you are in the UK you can get into so many shows for FREE. Seriously! Do your research and watch all you can.

  • Practice every day. Don’t be lazy. As a circus artist, you can’t be lazy, it simply doesn’t work. Practice every day, no matter how tired you are. Give yourself a physical rest day but still work mentally on what you know needs the work.

  • Ask people to watch and review your work. Put on some leathers and deal with the criticism. Film yourself, if you think it’s good ask yourself how you can make it better.

  • Spend the money! On good promotional material. On gorgeous costumes. Get some good shots, get a good video, spend money on a website. Don’t skim and try to get things for cheap. If you always go for cheap people will only want to get you for cheap. I am a firm believer of this. If you don’t have any money start out with what you have then improve everything as you go along. It will make you feel so good, I promise.

Don’t:

  • Compare yourself to others, ever. We all get here through different paths of life, that’s what makes it so special, you cannot compare apples to horses, a dancer is not a clown is not a gymnast is not a poet. Work on yourself, put a pair of blinkers on, fuck I don’t care, just work on yourself.

  • Act like a superstar. Circus artists are not superstars and they never will me. We are not in the movies, or in music. Your job is to train and perform to the best of your capabilities, you will often go home to a three star hotel, because you are not a celebrity. Even the biggest circus artists in the world are still not celebrities, so don’t act like one!

  • Don’t EVER think that you cannot do something. You are in the wrong business. You can do anything that you want. If you don’t believe it, go back and work on that first.

Interview: No Hanging About For Aerial Star Stephen Williams

Stephen Williams at Boom & Bang Circus (c) Lisa Thomson

Stephen Williams at Boom & Bang Circus (c) Lisa Thomson

Stephen Williams at Boom & Bang (c) Lisa Thomson

Stephen Williams began using circus as an alternative to the traditional physical education options. After falling in love with the art form, he now makes his living performing a variety of disciplines all over the world at a huge range of events and venues. With a mix of circus disciplines to choose from, including acrobalance and aerial chains, Williams shows how being flexible, literally and in terms of what you offer as a performer, can work wonders.

Don’t let his youthful looks and muscular physique fool you: Boom & Bang Circus regular Stephen Williams is one smart and experienced individual. He holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Circus Arts from the Australian National Institute of Circus Arts and has already racked up a broad and impressive résumé, from the intimacy and high profile shows of shows at London’s Hippodrome Casino to acclaimed travelling circus La Clique and huge events such as the Asia Games Opening and Closing Ceremonies in Doha. Last year, Stephen worked alongside Franco Dragone on the creation and performance of TABOO in Macau’s City Of Dreams. Stephen spoke to us about his introduction to circus, his choice of discipline and his plans for the future.

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Photograph by Dade Freeman

How did you get involved in circus arts?

I attended a community high school for people that didn’t quite fit into mainstream schooling. At this school, during my final two years, they offered circus arts as an elective add on to phys ed. In the course we learnt how to do acrobatics, aerial and also how to go about making a show from the production side of things. In that time I really found my feet and decided that it was definitely what I wanted to do career wise.

 

What is it about your discipline/apparatus you use that you love?

I love being physical, I am a physical person who likes to find new challenges. First thing I learnt was rope. I got bored of rope then tried handstands, get bored from time to time with that so moved onto straps and some partner acrobalance. Currently I do aerial chains and handstands. Basically I like things that are new and challenging, with so many completely different disciplines within one art form, it seems to be the way for me!

 

What is important about a performance to you?

I think the most important thing is to enjoy what you’re doing. You can make a living doing a lot of things so why not choose what you enjoy. The great thing is that with circus once the enjoyment of a certain act you do runs out, you can make another one!

 

Would you say that you have developed a style or any signature moves/tricks? 

I suppose I might go through phases of different looks and styles but I try not to as different shows have different themes and can definitely work to your advantage to be able to adapt and fit.

 

Do you have certain events or venues you prefer to perform?

I prefer venues with audiences that are close enough to interact with but, to be honest, whether it is ceremonial events, corporate, variety or anything else, any time I get to work doing what I love is great!

 

What are your plans for the future?

My plans for the future is to keep doing what I enjoy, but who knows what that might be in the distant future, could be anything!

Photos (c) Lisa Thomson and Dade Freeman as marked.

Interview: Lisa Lottie Talks Touring Asia, Hoops And Running Away To Join The Circus.

Since discovering circus in her early twenties Lisa Lottie has been travelling and developing her skills through performance and studies all over the world. With hula hoops as her main discipline, she tours the globe as a street performer and corporate entertainer across.

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Currently based in London and Melbourne, Australia, hoop performer Lisa Lottie has through dedicated training and sheer hard work created quite a buzz. Her Youtube videos have garmered over 1.5 million views and she has an impressive performance résumé featuring the likes of Boom Boom Club, India’s Empire Circus and Valencia’s Circo Gran Fele.

Her repertoire has expanded over the years to cover a number of set pieces. These include the street act Bend It Like Barbie, hula hoop shows Differente and Slinky Hoops and a comedy contortion routine in which she squeezes through a tiny metal hoop, at one point bottom first.

Lottie spoke to us about how she caught the circus bug and the whirlwind journey she has taken since then.

When did you become interested in circus?

I literally stumbled upon circus in 2006. I lived in Brighton, I had a life full of good things but I didn’t really have a major passion. I got handed a hula hoop and I enjoyed playing with it but I wasn’t particularly good at it or wild about it. Angie Mack (of Brighton’s Hoop O’Click collective) was the only one I knew who was a circus performer and she was bloody good at hula hooping, it amazed me. She turned down the to join a circus in India but she wasn’t too keen. I loved travelling and I ended up doing it instead.

I had three months to learn how to hoop well enough to be in a traditional Indian show. It was hilarious, Angie taught me some lessons and from doing absolutely nothing I started training three, four, five hours a day to make something of my hoop skills. I ran away and joined the circus, I joked. Before starting on my hoop training, I couldn’t even touch my toes and I had never even tried to do a bridge before. It seriously opened up my eyes. My first ever performance ever was in a sold out 5,000 seater big top in Mumbai’s Churchgate district. I remember being so nervous I almost fainted!  Four other westerners and I were the first white import ever into an Indian circus. It was all over the newspapers, it was complete madness. Not the most common introduction to circus…

After I left the circus I stayed in India and started to work in the corporate entertainment industry throughout India and Asia, working my act in lots of shopping malls, at business events, galas, weddings, dinner events, anything you could think of really. I was quite into the business side too, I think I worked on that just as much as my skills. I continued to train hula hoops and flexibility on a daily basis. I think it took me a year to get into the splits. Eventually I went to two different circus schools: the national Brazilian circus school in Rio de Janeiro and later the Circus Space in London.

What do you think of the world of circus today? Is there anything you would like to see change?

Circus now is so exciting, there are so many more styles than ever before. It’s for nerds, dancers, gymnasts, annoying little overly talented youngsters, old school variety artists, b boys, stunt people, musicians, visual artists… we can all work together for one goal: to create something amazing. With circus being more & more recognised as a ‘proper’ artform in the UK I can see it be more realised year after year. I think it’s going in the right direction!

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Do you have a favourite venue? If so, why?

I love a good ballroom! I love old venues because they tend to be so romantic. A nice royal theatre or anything with a bit of history always makes me feel very humble. Lately the London Hippodrome has been pretty awesome. They have a nicely sized stage and the Matcham Room is just gorgeous.

What makes a good performance space? What do you like to see when you turn up to perform?

SPACE! Having an actual SPACE to perform, length, width, height mainly! It’s what puts me off so much in so many of the London venues. It BAFFLES me to see that there are some venues that refurbish as a cabaret venue and actually downsize the size of the already minuscule stage. Other than that I like a good set of lights, a competent tech person and some more space, in the changing room so I can warm up. I think it’s also very important that the audience is comfortably seated and that I can hear my music as well as they can.

How different do you find the worlds of private venue performance and street performance? Do the audiences have different wants and needs?

Very different! The biggest difference always being that if an audience is watching my street show and they don’t like what they see they will just walk away; that’s what makes it so special too. You have to be very strong mentally to be able to deal with the constant rejection. At the same time though, when you have an amazing show on Saturday afternoon in Covent Garden and there’s a thousand people who have stopped in their tracks to watch you behave like a total idiot and they are clapping, cheering and going crazy I can really take a step out of that to assess the situation and feel like “yeah, I did that!”  When I do a venue show I perform for five minutes and the audience is already there, they want to be entertained, they have paid for it already, all I have to do is deliver the goods!

What are the challenges of being a street performer?

Where to start? I think the biggest challenge comes in the earliest days. I have spent summers crying on the street with hula hoops in my hands, not knowing what the fuck to do to be entertaining to these people. How to make them stop and watch and then keep them there. How to learn to write material and make it work. It really is the most awful and degrading process, and you make no money whatsoever. But I had this ridiculous urge to make it work because I knew that I wanted to take a stage with me always, no matter where I was in the world. No matter how, I wanted to be able to bust out a show anywhere, anytime. It’s the ultimate freedom as an artist.

I never have to worry about not getting any bookings because I create my own work. If I want to work on a new trick, a new routine, new material I just go out and do it. If I need money to buy something I just go out and make it. Since I made the decision to be a performer I have not had any “ordinary” jobs.  Other challenges? being constantly harassed by bums, junkies and general street life, having some very challenging “competition” with other street artists who are not respectful of street entertainment etiquette, being cold and miserable and  having to stretch way more than you want on those days and having perpetually cold feet! Saying all that I absolutely love being a street performer and I wouldn’t trade it for any other job in the world.

What are you currently working on? What’s happening in your world right now?

I am currently on tour in Canada performing in different cities around the country at “Buskerfest” events. Towns pretty much shut down their roads for the weekend and a whole cast of some of the world’s most amazing street performers come in and do shows for typically three days though up to ten days sometimes. Street performing is huge in Canada and the shows are incredible. The people are so friendly and welcoming and I get to hang out with some of my favourite friends.

Any big plans for the future, or things you aspire to achieve?

I’m always working on making my street show better than the year before, I also hope to have a new hoop act in 2014. I want to make something more classical and put in a whole series of new tricks I have been working on. I still want to make my own solo Fringe show but I always say I won’t do it before I am 32, which is still 4 years away so I’ve got time. I am always working on it in the back of my mind though. I haven’t trained or performed any aerials since 2011 and last year I said I would let loose in it again and I managed exactly one 30 minute session in the entire year. So go me! This year I am going to get my driver’s licence. That is my top priority!

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Top Ten Facts About Clowning

International Clown Week is upon us. So to celebrate, here are our top ten facts. 

Modern clown Danny Adams

Modern clown Danny Adams

There is no definitive story of how Clowning Week first came to be or who came up with the idea, there are stories a plenty. International Clown Week is only officially recognised in the USA, but there’s no reason why us Brits can’t join the party. All we can say is enjoy it, revel in it, maybe slip on some large shoes and a red nose and clown to your hearts content.

  1. International clowning week takes place in the first week of August every year.

  2. National Clown Week was signed into law on 2 August, 1971 by Richard Nixon. It has since then become International Clown Week.

  3. The traditional nickname for a clown is a Joey, after the early 19th century pantomime star Joseph Grimaldi.

  4. The word clown is believed to come from the Icelandic word klunni, meaning a clumsy person.

  5. Clowning duos often come in the form of the Whiteface (a serious character) and an Auguste (often with exaggerated features and a mischievous nature).

  6. A fear of clowns is known as Coulrophobia, and is not recognised by the World Health Organisation as a registered disorder.

  7. A clown show traditionally follows a framework. This provides a loose structure for the clown to change, improvise and work around throughout the show, choosing to include and dismiss chunks of material at will depending on the reaction of the specific audience.

  8. A clown act can come in a variety of different forms. These include “entrees” (longer acts that contain gags and typically use a clowning framework), “side dishes” (a shorter, feature act between other show material) and “interludes”, a distraction-style set the clown performs while rigging or equipment is being adjusted in the background.

  9. What is referred to as “business” is the motions and gestures a clown uses to express a character or personality.

  10. There are thought to be over 20,000 clowns in the world today. The most famous have their faces painted onto eggs (chicken, or sometimes goose) and are displayed in collections in the UK and the USA. The tradition was started right here in the UK around 1946.

Book Review: Douglas McPherson’s Circus Mania

From the travelling big top, through big name productions, theatrical circus, youth projects, circus education and resident shows right through to the weird and wonderful world of contemporary circus and freak shows, new book Circus Mania covers all the bases.

Circus of Horrors are one of the troupes featured in Douglas McPherson's book

Circus of Horrors are one of the troupes featured in Douglas McPherson’s book

Called “a passionate, up-to-date look at the circus and its people” by no less than veteran circus producer Gerry Cottle, Douglas McPherson’s Circus Mania is a comprehensive examination of circus. It covers every angle, from the historical roots on almost every continent, right through to the travelling shows, individuals and media triumphs of today. With interviews from leading circus professionals and a huge range of historical reference, McPherson has certainly done the research and dug deep into why circus has become so popular, and how it is reaching the dizzy heights it enjoys today.

The book also features frank reviews about much of modern circus, ranging from the billion-dollar phenomenon that is Cirque du Soleil, right through to the traditional travelling circuses, including the animal shows of Martin Lacey’s Great British Circus.

With in-depth and well-supported discussions on animal rights, it is clear that the author has found the ever-discussed elephant in the room. Is it right for animals to be trained as part of the circus performance? A substantial interview with Lacey, along with quotes from the RSPCA and heaps of factual information informs the reader of the realities and the morality of using animals in circuses. As McPherson showed in an article for the Telegraph, there is no clear-cut consensus on this topic internationally or amongst vets and scientists and in his book he makes some thought-provoking comparisons, for example with horse racing;  is it right to train animals to perform night after night? But then is it right to whip a horse repeatedly and make it jump blind, and sometimes dangerous, fences for the purposes of gambling and amusement?

At its core, this book is an close-up look at circus, its people and how it is surviving in its many forms in today’s ever changing world. With such a wide variety of styles covered, McPherson is unafraid to jump head first into the nitty gritty of it all. We meet some old school characters, eager to keep the spirit of the traditional circus alive, along with the new generation in the form of youth projects. Training school Circus Space gets a dedicated chapter, although despite getting an interesting look into the roots of their building and the original site, the author doesn’t delve into the student life too much. This is disappointing considering the depth elsewhere and possibly the book’s chief shortcoming. A lack of detail on the transition from degree student to stage performer is a notable omission in a book where we get to meet plenty of a whole host of other fascinating characters who explain their circus journeys with stories of growing up and sometimes running away with the circus.

Clowns Clive Webb, standing, and Danny Adams with dancers at the Great Yarmouth Hippodrome

Clowns Clive Webb, standing, and Danny Adams with dancers at the Great Yarmouth Hippodrome

Each chapter focuses on a single subject. The variety of topics is a testament to the author’s passion for circus: the death of silks artist Eva Garcia, freak show Circus Of Horrors and Yarmouth Hippodrome are covered alongside Gerry Cottle’s Stars of tomorrow and Cottle’s Chinese State Circus. Furthermore, McPherson balances the breadth of his book with insightful historical and cultural context. With references to other shows, comparisons to past and present performers and a great number of interviews, the reader gets a real sense of what it’s like to work with the circus. There are discussions on everything circus with Cottle, the Hippodrome’s Clive Web and Danny Adams, Bippo of Circus Mondao, skater John Hamer from Cirque de Glace and John Haze, the founder of Circus Of Horrors. A wonderful extra is a cultural and in-depth look at the changes in clowning throughout history, illustrating how the auguste and whiteface roles have changed and adapted over time.

A detailed history of Cirque du Soleil provides a walkthrough of how this world-famous show started by street performers literally got off the ground and into space. The precarious beginnings – including a financially unstable production with all of the company’s hopes pinned on one festival – are covered right through to the modern day successes and the huge organisation it has become with its multiple shows simultaneously performing and touring worldwide. McPherson also reviews a performance of their Varekai, picking apart the elements of the show and taking the reader behind and beyond the glitzy veneer.

With clear examples and references throughout the book, each point and opinion McPherson makes is supported by a wealth of information. The research and study that has contributed to the book is outstanding, leaving little room for criticism. Pack your bags before getting stuck into McPherson’s book: it may leave you yearning to run away with the circus.

 

Photo credits: Seventh Wave Imagery (Circus of Horrors), David Smart (Clive Webb, Danny Adams and dancers)

Slightly Fat Features Head For Edinburgh Fringe Festival With High Hopes

The family-friendly variety supergroup Slightly Fat Features are heading to the Fringe next month. What can we expect from them?

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Luke Joyce @ Archetype images

This year Slightly Fat Features heads to the Edinburgh Fringe festival, taking with it a 70-minute self-titled mashup of previous shows Variety and A Fat Lot Of Good. The seven-piece ensemble, who have been touring together since 2010, have a long history of friendship spanning back, in some cases 15 years.

With tours across the UK and Europe, the all male variety troupe have had sell out runs at The Roundhouse, The Pleasance, Blackpool Showzam Festival and Warwick Arts Centre. 2010 saw the group come together to create Variety by the Sea, with A Fat Lot Of Good coming in late 2011. The combination of the two for the Fringe will be a chance to combine the best of both for one knockout variety spectacular.

Slightly Fat Features create shows with variety, suitable for audiences of all ages. Expect live music, magic, circus sings and dance, and lots of comedy and laughter. Their aim is to bring variety back into the venues and theatres of the UK and all around the world, including vital elements of street performance such as crowd participation and directly making the audience a part of the show. The Fringe should give these guys the perfect opportunity to get up close and personal with their audience and spread the Slightly Fat word.

This year, the multi-talented crew of host and circus artist Goronwy Thom, musical director Robert Lee, escapologist Gareth Jones, clown Herbie Treehead, drummer Matt Bernard, comedian Richard Garaghty and paintertainer Jon Hicks receive additional direction from Petra Massey, well known for contributions to the exquisitely and wickedly funny Spymonkey.

 

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Luke Joyce @ Archetype images

Goronwy Thom spoke to This Is Cabaret about the troupe’s shows, it’s creative process and their plans after the big Fringe experience.

What makes Slightly Fat Features different from other variety shows?

Crucially we are one of the only ones making shows for everyone, if perhaps not the only one. We hope to take variety back to the major theatres of the UK and into the West End and we believe this means playing shows suitable for everybody. There are brilliant cabaret shows for adults and brilliant ones for kids but not for both. It doesn’t mean we are prudes or anything and you only need to see our show to realise we don’t have to be a kid’s show to entertain children.

Also, we are different because of the constant group of performers. We are all individual performers who still work across the world and all have our own acts. We play individually in cabarets all the time but, since forming Slightly Fat Features in 2010, our group mentality and group routines have made our cabaret/variety show more an ensemble piece and less cabaret. Furthermore, because we know each other so well and have done so for years before Slightly Fat Features even started, we have a relationship both on and off stage which is so close that interesting combinations come up when playing live together. Our knowledge of each other allows us to play with routines during the show, keeping everyone on their toes and everything fresh.

 

How do you find building shows that appeal to every age group? 

We don’t particularly make pieces for everyone, we just make ones that we think are funny or entertaining. We then look at the content and tweak things if we believe there is a need. We think if it is funny, it is funny and whether you are 4 or 84 some things will always be funny. We also react live to the audience we play for: if there are lots of laughs around certain parts to the show, we try and add to them. Sometimes we think of a gag or a piece which is just on the borderline of appropriateness and this can lead to disagreements as to what is or isn’t suitable. But we tend to agree on most content.

 

As a troupe, how do you approach the creative process?

We often individually or in pairs form a very basic idea and present it to the group. That goes on to become a bigger fuller idea with everyone’s input and the next stage is to put it in front of a crowd if possible. We have always used the stage and the live performance as a major tool to our creativity. Sometimes the most basic of idea will be put on stage to see if it is funny or good in other ways.

We have regularly used guest acts in shows to create a good level of cabaret without us even in it and then have added on top lots of new routines and ideas. Hopefully the acts who guest are the meat and we are the sandwich and the combination makes a decent meal for the audience! This gives us the chance to put routines in front of audiences and then refine them to create a finished piece. Since last October, we have had additional direction from Petra Massey, and that hugely talented directive eye has helped us enormously.

 

Once the Fringe festival is done, what’s in store for you all?

We will no doubt need some sleep and holiday after the end of the Fringe , but soon after we will all play some individual gigs and then move on with creating a tour for 2014 and acting on any opportunities the company may have received. We are hopeful that Edinburgh will create some exciting opportunities and we can boost the profile of the company. I personally will probably do a lot of admin.

Cirque Alfonse’s Timber! Brings Québec To The Southbank Centre

Hailing from Québec, Circus Alfonse bring the essence of the lumberjack yard to the Southbank Centre, using all manners of different wooden logs, poles and metal tools to perform a show crammed with lively music, stunning tricks and a strong sense of heritage.

 

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Cirque Alfonse are bringing the idea of family circus firmly to the forefront in their new show, Timber!One standout member of the cast is 66 year old grandfather Alain Carabinier. He might come across the typical papa but there’s definitely plenty of life in the old boy yet, having not run away with his family circus until his sixties. He brings a sweetness to the show with his ramblings and never ending energy. At one point taking to a bungee rope, he is hoisted and bounced around the space above the stage, spun around, and landed right back in his rocking chair.

This show is, in many respects, a family affair, with his two children Antoine and Julie (along with her partner Jonathan) making up half of the cast. They are joined by musicians, some of whom also contribute to axe juggling routines and act as counter weights. The genuine family connection and relationship between the cast is evident as they present an entertaining and fun show for all ages.

The cast mix traditional music and dance, together with a huge variety of circus disciplines to entertain the audience for a 90 minute extravaganza of daring tricks and culture. Highlights include the Russian bar routine, performed by Jonathan on a regular shaven and shaped log. The audience gasp as he, without a thought, drops his legs either side of the pole, sitting astride it in a trick that sees several men in the audience crossing their legs. Jonathan goes on to perform a series of impressive somersaults and twists, supported by two fellow cast members. Some tricks take several tries but it’s the unrelenting determination to perform the final trick without fault that wins him raucous cheers when he finally achieves his goal.

The show has room to improve, with several drop and blunders. However, the content is engaging and entertaining, drawing the audience into this family world of crazy antics and good old fashioned sing songs. The musicians keep the flow of the show smooth and whip the action along. There is never a dull moment, even in the calmer sections. Crammed with laughs, Timber! is definitely a family-friendly show, with some tongue-in-cheek humour for the adults.

The third generation of Cirque Alfonse makes an appearance in the encore as Julie and Jonathan’s two year old son stands upon his fathers outstretched arm with perfect ease. The crowd melts and rightly so, the boy’s cheeky smile is a clear sign he’s destined to follow in his parents’ — and grandparents’ — footsteps.

Would it be a one to watch? Yes… it wood!

Falling Up Falls Right Into Place At Jacksons Lane

Possibly the most relevant and perfect choice for a venue ever made, Falling Up’s adventure tour of experiences slots perfectly into Jackson Lane’s winding winding rooms and secret doors. 

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Jacksons Lane’s Postcards seasons continues with a brand new version of Falling Up by the all female street theatre company Mimbre.

The audience is led through a journey by four acrobats, the same four who make up the entire cast but fill the space as if they were a thousand strong. Their unrelenting enthusiasm and vivacious energy gets the audience giggling right from the get go. Despite the small scale of the production, with only a few props and a limited stage design, the four women use every piece of space to its full potential as they clamber over every inch of the stage.

With a distinct focus on the pressures of being a performer, the show centres around the theme of body image and self critique. Visitors move through four rooms hosted by a different acrobat, each describing a different artistic pressure. Themes include body size, shape, having a unique body and the strain of juggling multiple responsibilities.

Each audience member is presented with a sweet in the cafe on arrival and is then distributed into groups and led through the weaves and paths of the old Gothic church. We meet a girl with a tape measure who is celebrating her size before suddenly realising one measurement is less than satisfactory. We also meet a mother juggling the multiple stresses and strains of keeping her performance and family life going simultaneously. An enthusiastic performance from Alison takes a comic turn as the audience is encouraged to chant “LEGS” whilst she describes her own, unique pair. The final performer seems to be attempting to keep to the stereotype of a dedicated performer, stressing about diet, torn between a healthy apple and the sin of a luscious, delicious doughnut.

For the finale the cast brings together each individual character brilliantly as they fill the main theatre stage with a range of impressive acro-balance and physical theatre. Retaining all character traits right through to the end, the cast put on a good show that is both entertaining and commendable. A few sections drag on slightly, including lots of movement within the space that never seem to lead anywhere. At points, the foursome split into two pairs performing contrasting unison routines. Both pairs present excellent combinations of gymnastics and balance, however trying to concentrate on both simultaneously is difficult. It feels as if we are constantly torn between which couple to watch. This is a testament to the choreography but awkward as a spectator.

For such a small cast, Mimbre manage to entertain and wow the crowd throughout the show, mixing audience interaction (such as flower throwing and a little audience aerobics) with a traditional routine performance. An easily transportable show with great development potential, this company and cast will fit well into any big or small performance space, making their show both enjoyable and highly flexible.

Review: Juggling On Tap, Rosemary Branch Theatre

Juggling On Tap rock the Rosemary Branch Theatre, as this five piece cast put on a five star show.

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The quaint but bustling Rosemary Branch Theatre plays host to a new production devised by Juggling On Tap. The show comes with the support from Circus Space’s Lab Time, the training academy’s programme for new graduates of all disciplines. Music from around the world flavours a show which couples impressive tap dancing with creative juggling routines for a jam packed display.

The cast of five push the boat out and exploit a variety of talents to make this newly-devised show a mix of tunes, comedy and skill.  There is apparently no end to Magnus Mehta‘s percussive talents which see him moving swiftly from instrument to instrument and throwing around crossed and complicated rhythms. Avalon Rathgeb steps up to the plate by mimicking the rhythms in tap, and launching into a range of complex footwork with effortless ease while Eimear McGeown brings an Irish flavour to the show with her Irish dance and range of flutes. McGeown also demonstrates her talents as a composer in a segment entitled The Island (Inis). Her performance is relaxed and has a natural flow that quietens the mood. With further harmonic hints at world music her work ties in brilliantly with the show’s ambience.

Marie Gabrielle Marty shows all round skill, contributing tap, soulful vocals and guitar to the show. When the juggling finally makes it’s way into the show, Stewart Pemberton delivers a knockout set of mesmerising tricks and combinations, constantly changing and evolving. The juggling aspect enters a little late considering its implied prominence in the production’s title.

However, once it arrives, the whole cast pull out all the stops and work together to create a funny, eye-catching display of concentration and imagination. With balls flying here, there and everywhere, and some being bounced for percussive sound purposes, the skill and rhythm become part of the music. With the addition of dance beats, it all combines to form a wall of intricate rhythms.

The show, still in its infancy, is not without its teething problems. The show deserves more space than the venue allows, as individuals squeeze and tiptoe around the tiny stage. A few segments are drawn out slightly too long, such as the imitation section that sees Mehta and Rathgeb in a call and response style jam. Nevertheless, the buildup in tension in each element of the show is commendable and each chunk of material builds to include most of the cast. This is particularly impressive when four of the cast members tap in unison while Mehta accompanies on percussion.

Under Peta Lily’s able direction, this collaboration of individuals has produced an exciting and stimulating show.With a name like Juggling On Tap, it feels like the juggling aspect arrives a little late to the party but, overall, there are some wonderful moments and this brand new show is sure to develop and grow.

Sex And The Syllables: Velvet Tongue’s Erotic Poetry Night

Will erotic poetry night Velvet Tongue’s spring edition find us licking our lips or biting them?

Amy Neilson Smith opens the show with a collection of short poems that are entertaining and humorous. She holds the audience in a constant giggle with her expressive voice and naughty words. Shaun Levin brings the tone down to a melancholic contemplation as he recites an excerpt from his book Seven Sweet Things. Although his story contains erotic imagery, it is more of a sad anecdote and he is visibly emotional when he completes his set. Later in the evening Van Roberts, who has made time for Velvet Tongue on her travels from Australia, centred her set around the theme of a sexual dry spell, and the resulting fantasy of every day innuendo. Her work draws guilty and knowing chuckles from the audience as she touches on thoughts we all secretly have. These three performers bring their own sparkle to the event and, in retrospect, save what is to become a disappointing lineup. The early promise, unfortunately, gives way to a litter of substandard performances.

Season Butler presents a piece of performance art, dressed in a huge blonde wig and smeared in white face paint. She recites repetitive lines of text, whilst intermittently popping inflated condoms or batting them into the audience depending on whether she completes sections without mistakes. Her act drags and gets old extremely quickly. The open mic segment of the evening doesn’t provide any better fare. One or two speakers have potential but most just merge together into a long list of forgettable faces. Even the addition of a boylesque act brings no real wow with the performer displaying clear signs of stage fright. Although the content of almost every act’s dialogue was related to sex or fantasy, not everyone seems to understand the idea of erotic literature. Shaun Levun and Van Roberts are great examples of people who are getting it right.

The Hanging Gardener Of Babylon, who seems to be having a not-so-secret love affair with his nipples, simply shouts at the audience and rapidly becomes insufferable. He misses the point of the evening, as a barrage of sound bombards the audience, which lacks any sense of sensuality. Butler and Babylon stand out for completely the wrong reasons and bring nothing to the evening.

Ernesto Sarezale hosts with a nervous enthusiasm, even offering a poem of his own. His sweet-natured hosting style makes the evening a little more bearable. The sheer length of the show brings down the overall impact: after three long hours, people began leaving at an ever increasing rate and the initially packed venue thinned considerably. The interval following the main acts is a welcome break, but the second half drags on and on with no end in sight. What purports to be an erudite and erotic night suffers, on this occasion at least, under the weight of some of the underwhelming acts.