LucyLovesCircus

Tuesday, 23 May 2017

Chapter 188: Hikapee Theatre's HOME at the Wandsworth Arts Fringe


When does a house become a home? That was the question that not-for-profit circus theatre company Hikapee were exploring this weekend as part of the mini two day festival called  Hidden Heathbrook in Heathbrook Park, part of the wider two week Wandsworth Arts Fringe. The Fringe shines the spotlight on my neck of the woods but it had pretty much passed me by this year as, somewhat ironically, all my energy over the past fortnight has been going into readying our own house to go on the market this week. 

The kids were super excited to see  Hikapee Theatre's Bryony Livesey and Edd Casey again after last seeing them at Jacksons Lane for Moonfall (see post - click here), and because Bryony has taught my 8 year old aerial skills at Flying Fantastic

Heathbrook Park is a hidden gem. We had never been there before, despite only being 15 minutes down the road. Festival banners and bunting was out, the sun was shining and there was a glorious festival vibe. 

Pete from Pif-Paf Theatre in SEED
We arrived in time to catch some of Sheffield-based PifPaf Theatre's SEED, which was a lovely surprise. The tale of one man's fight to protect the trees, it is set in a ramshackle potting shed that is a wonder of creative imagineering, has live music and the most amazing puppets, and I cannot wait to see it in full at the Greenwich and Docklands International Festival when they return at the end of June. 

Talking of feats of engineering, we found Edel and Chris Wigan from Flying Fantastic with their girls in the family creation space making a flamingo out of cardboard boxes and sticky tape, and joined in to help with the Flying Fantastic Flaming Flamingo. So much fun. Mission accomplished we took our seats on the grass in front of a scaffolding skeleton of a house.  It was one of those sunshiney lazy days, and as I reclined on the grass, my five year old nestled on top of me, a guy with a continental accent next to me offered me the use of his backpack as a pillow, which I gratefully accepted. He reminded me of  the protagonist in Soho The Show (see previous post - click here) which was funny as along with Bryony, Edd and Rachel Entwistle, the cast of HOME included Rebecca Rennison, who starred in Soho, the run ending only the night before. 

HOME weaved acrobatics and aerial around the frame of  a house, set to an absolutely cracking soundtrack that gratifyingly tied in thematically. It was great fun, high energy, interactive and the physical comedy entertained as much as the stellar aerial skills, keeping the audience totally engaged from start to finish - no mean feat when outdoors with plenty of young children in the crowd!

The performance kicked of with The Drifters "Up on the roof", which reminded me of the book at bedtime I am reading with the kids, Katherine Rundell's "The Rooftoppers" where the girl finds an escape route on the rooftops of Paris with the help of a boy who walks a tightwire. Circus everywhere. Here though, up on the roof were a couple of Right Said Fred builders (Edd and Rachel) clambering all over the structure and taking time out to juggle a cuppa. An estate agent (Rebecca) turned up with a family moving in, Bryony in pigtails as the young girl which she channels so well (again, see Moonfall!), and the shenanigans began. There were great routines on Chinese pole, part of the side structure of the house, including a cheeky nod to the shirtless workman, and a rope rigged from the centre of the roof, along with all the parallel bars and a scaffolding plank that enabled all sorts of innovative aerial moves, including thrilling duo acrobatics that drew gasps from the crowd. My favourite part was watching all four performers suspended with bicycling legs set to a Paolo Nutini track - madcap, upbeat and funny. Gradually through team-work the walls went up, and the house was furnished with a working lampshade, a television set, and all the trimmings. Now it was home. 

HOME: "It's a place where people live"
HOME: "Best thing I have ever seen."

HOME was developed in conjunction with the homeless charity St Mungo's, taking in stories from the volunteers, who often have been or are homeless themselves, which informs the ethos of the piece. This became apparent after the performance as the house became an installation, the cast serving up homemade lemonade and biscuits to the children and encouraging them to reflect on what "home" means to them and write it up on the walls. Ah the kids loved that (as did the adults as well!) - the freedom to graffiti all over the place, how cool was that?! My 8 year old wanted to know what the prime minister was doing about homelessness (only ten more years til she gets the vote!), while her younger sister (aged 5) declared to Bryony that the best bit was "when the guy took his top off... that was really funny!" Don't know where she gets it from... As for me, the show, and its timing in our life right now, reinforced the fact that home is where my family is, wherever that may be.

As for the flamingo, well, we found him some temporary accommodation... 


Wednesday, 17 May 2017

Chapter 187: Soho The Show at The Peacock, Sadlers Wells

All photo credits: www.stufish.com
Did you know a clownfish hatches as male, but gradually turns female depending on the environment? I learned that fact from my daughter yesterday, who was researching endangered species for her homework. I thought of Soho...

Soho The Show is currently on at The Peacock, Sadlers Wells until 20 May, and is a whistle-stop tour through a day in the life of the area, through the eyes of a Soho virgin, a continental backpacker (Alessio Motta), as he seeks to find his bearings. We pass through Soho Square itself and Chinatown, and legendary haunts like Madame Jojo's and The Colony Rooms, and are immersed in a world of Soho tropes and tarts including an underwear mannequin in a shop window, a Hare Krishna monk, a Big Issue seller, a punk rocker, a boudoir model and photographer, burlesque dancers and a glittering clownfish of a drag queen in her element. There isn't a narrative as such, rather a series of tableaux vivants that are threaded together by a sense of gradual progression from diurnal to nocturnal activities, from coffee to cocktales.

The show is the brainchild of director Abigail Yeates, who conceived the piece about seven or eight years ago and then last year worked with second year students at the National Centre for Circus Arts over two periods of Research and Development. Auditions were held the following January and the cast now comprises a dozen performers drawn from all over the world, including two artists from the original show, Danny Ash (from circus cabaret Ssshhh! - click here) and Charlee Rico De Bolla. I was also looking forward to seeing Rebecca Rennison (leading lady in Chivaree Circus' Becoming Shades - click here), and the choreography of Eleni Edipidi, co-artistic director for Levantes Dance Theatre, in London recently at Jacksons Lane and The Albany with "The Band".

The creation was a collaboration with Stufish, a team of entertainment architects - what a great job title!  If you have been to the Pink Floyd exhibition at the V&A recently you will have come across their work as they are behind the design, and have been instrumental in staging Pink Floyd concerts over the years, as well as working with a number of other legends (Rolling Stones, Tina Turner, Madonna, Elton John...) As you can imagine then, the graphics on set were superb. It's not often that I have seen a circus show with such a budget for the set design, and, while not eclipsing the artists, it was a performance in its own right. I am sure that Stufish' history in the music industry was brought to bear on the cracking musical score ranging from the Sex Pistols to David Bowie. 

But it wasn't all rock and roll. As the crowds spilled out of the tube and the day began, I particularly enjoyed Paolo Conte's gravelled tones ("Via con me" - It's wonderful...) framing the slick hand-to-hand acrobatics and comedy of the Bar Italia waiters Loric Fouchereau and Peter Freeman. Daft Punk thudded in a gym full of ripped guys and rippling muscles pumping irons and testostorone (deadlifting Danny Ash was a stroke of genius) and spurting... water bottles! Meanwhile Charlee Rico DeBolla's boxing turn had real punch, think Jason Statham on straps. In my gym this morning Starship blared out (Nothing's gonna stop us now...), reminding me of Mélanie Dupuis' striking turn as the aforementioned mannequin in the shop window during a Soho scene setter, and I loved Danny Ash's Mad Hatter of a tailor cutting a dapper figure in a purple top hat and matching suit with chequered trousers, in a world that got progressively curiouser and curiouser. 

Using "Mellow Yellow" to register the psychedelic saffron trappings of universal love made me smile, and even if I thought a tourist-bashing punk was more the province of Camden than Soho, albeit an agent provocateur, Rebecca Rennison nailed it. A pointed observation about the increasing gentrification of the area (Ch...Ch...Ch...Changes) ended the first act, but I was still reeling from the sinuous romance of the double trapeze act from Mélanie Dupuis and Xander Taylor. It was a real showstopper. 


The second half opened in the circus of Chinatown, complete with Chinese pole, obviously. Chinese pole is Alessio Motta's core discipline, and it was great to see him in action on it and the body popping he brought into play. There was also a beautiful interlude of Alessio's contact juggling; he had an air of Marcel Marceau with all the magic of Bowie in Labyrinth. Martial arts were drawn into the definition of Chinatown, and were deftly executed by Anton Simpson-Tidy, whose precision of movement was impressive. From there we moved onto the spa rituals involved in prepping for a night on the town, and Camille Tremblay's stellar contortion and hand balancing on the rim of a bath-tub (a bar of soap was the top of a handstand cane, so clever!), was a class act that got us all in a lather. Next stop was Madame Jojo's, rather poignant as at the time this show was conceived it would still have been going strong. It was a joy to see Rebecca Rennison's burlesque turn on dance trapeze, powerfully strong with the supple lines of a ballerina. I thought diva hip-hop dancer Kayla Lomas-Kirton in a Motown glory of technicoloured sequins was terrific, and Danny Ash was the cherry on top. Danny strutted in wearing a high-cut teal, spangled leotard, feathers  - plucked from The Peacock?! - ruffled by long blonde locks, lip synching with full sass, and letting rip on silks in staggering silver heels. Wow! Meanwhile Leah Wolff on aerial hoop threw a neat spin on the male gaze by encircling the guys, there to salivate over her, in a stunning routine of dizzying proportions, but with a giant eye in the background, who was watching whom? Moving onto The Colony Rooms captured the louche glamour of yesteryear while watching Xander Taylor return to trapeze and strip down to his briefs I found myself blushing in the dark. 

That the show should end on the conceit that Soho is a state of mind made me laugh, as I've been saying that about circus for years. It explains why the two make such natural bedfellows, as both Soho and circus communities have, historically, operated on the margins of society, welcoming in those on the fringes, whether in terms of nationality, sexuality or simply just because. It was lovely to see a show that celebrated that spirit with Pride. 

Monday, 15 May 2017

Chapter 186: An Aerial Intensive Week with Freedom2FlyDA



"I don't get it Mum. Why are you doing this course if you're not going to become a professional?" My son's remark was closer to the bone than he realised as the aerial intensive programme I signed up for at Freedom2FlyDA is actually designed for professional dancers and performers (DA=Dancing Airborne). My answer was simple: "Because I love it." And if there is any lesson I wish my kids to take with them in life it is to stay curious, explore, and give the world all you've got. 

The other reason is that turning 40 I hear the tick-tock of my body clock. Doing aerial opens out my upper body, corrects my round shoulders and poor posture, potential harbingers of osteoporosis and rheumatoid arthritis with my family history, and lifts my mood no end. Any form of exercise that gets the endorphins pumping is great, but gyms for me were (or used to be - see previous post!) intimidating, while circus skills classes have a more eclectic, community vibe. And as well as making my body stronger, it inspires me to flex my writing muscles too. The Freedom2Fly course was based at the warehouse space of The Hive in Hackney Wick. I have been going to classes there on and off for the past year and always look forward to my walks along the canal, energised by the colour, creativity and life of the graffiti & fly posters all around. I read messages everywhere. 

There is a children's book I'm reading to mine at the moment - Katherine Rundell's "Rooftoppers", that makes me think of that. It is the story of a young girl who befriends a tightrope walker in Paris and traverses the skyline in the hunt for her mother. In the opening chapters, the visionary "captain my captain" guardian and his ward write notes to each other all over the wallpaper at home because, as he explains, "the more words in a house the better".  I agree. Fill the world with words. Round the corner from The Hive is one of my favourite haunts, Stour Space, a cultural hub with a wonderful cafe that has a floating pontoon on the water. Excited then to realise that the course hours fit snugly into the school day and I could be there every day for a whole week, the luxury!, I hadn't quite registered when signing up that that Day 1 landed on Bank Holiday Monday. Oops. I broke the news to my husband when kitted out for a night at the Moulin Rouge*. Timing is everything.  

Back to reality with a bump on the first day when registering that I was the only one there unable to do the splits, which put paid to any fantasies of an alternative life as a CanCan dancer. Can't Can't though, is not an option at Freedom2Fly. Soon we were airborne, and any frustration or anxiety I felt with my own limitations were forgotten as following the instructions took all my concentration. Our teachers Jair Ramirez (see post on Sugarman - click here)  and dancer and aerialist Josie-Beth Davies, both have a wealth of experience, incredible patience and a great sense of humour. On the first day too we had the company, for a short time, of Jair's wife Jessica Ramirez, dancer, aerialist and source of inspiration, along with their little aerial ninja Gabriel, who would have scaled every piece of equipment there given half a chance. Jess's presence was felt very much for the rest of the week, especially in the increasingly innovative plank formations that she choreographed! 

We were split into two groups according to experience, and classes alternated between teachers Jair and Josie, but as any aerial novices in my group were dancers, progress was rapid. It's not many beginners courses where you will find the first day ends up with inversions on straps. I got such a head-rush from laughing upside down that afterwards I floated right up to Walthamstow Central by accident and it took me two hours to get home. Shattered when I got back, I worried I wouldn't have the strength to keep going for the whole week. Xav restored my spirits with a mug of builders' tea and the sound advice: "Lucy, just take it one day at a time." 

The next morning: "Josie, what's happened to the hoops?" I asked. "Have you rigged them differently or something because I can't seem to get up on any of them..."
"Er Lucy, they are just the same as yesterday. Welcome to Day 2 of the course!" 
I was certainly feeling it! Hoop is my nemesis. It has moves similar to a static trapeze, but rigged on one point not two, so it can spin, and with a wider reach for the arms, it feels that bit more unstable. It speaks volumes for Josie's teaching that by the end of the week I had a routine going on it. In fact, it's astonishing how quickly my feelings about hoop changed, as I experienced first-hand the fine line (fear!) between anger and love. As in: "I f***ing hate hoop! Oh, wait! That's not so bad. I can actually do that... Oh... I f***ing looooove hoop!" 

The rest of the week sped by in a flash as we worked on aerial hoop, silks, rope, dance trapeze, static trapeze, Spanish Web, handstands and flexibility. I had never been on Spanish Web before. I had no clue what it was. It involved scaling a rope, looping a wrist into the strap at the top, holding the rope with the other hand and being spun round (see video below). Like making pancakes, the first attempt was messy, the second was more evenly spread, and then by the third you're ready to flip... when the kids saw the video that night they nicknamed me SpiderMum. iOlé! 

The joy of Spanish Web in part was overcoming the sheer terror that I wouldn't have enough strength to hold on at the top, and in part the giddy feeling that is all the fun of the fair. Learning a doubles routine on spinning hoop was another first. Paired up with Anna, who is so, so graceful and experienced,  I felt uber-conscious the whole time that I was holding her back, yet thanks to her support was able to let go into knee hangs and I loved the dynamics at play in our symmetry.  I thought of Collective XY's philosophy (click here) - she may have been going slower for me, but together we did go further. 


The week left me with a clear idea of what was going in the right direction (building up my strength) and what needs more work (flexibility!). It was a week that turned my life around thanks to our fantastic teachers, Josie & Jair, and Jess, a huge support on-line, and to the camaraderie of my awesome classmates Anna, Rachel, Hannah, Cerys and Emme, and the flyers in the other group Jane, Eleanor and Sophia & co. Thank you all, it was such a privilege and I hope I get the opportunity to train with you again. A case of: ¡qué será!  and ¡Ojalá! 

So when Jair brought out a selection of silks that he got in Colombia I found myself buying a pair, teal in colour, imagining sea-green waves cascading down. The squeals of excitement from my 8 year old daughter, a regular at Flying Fantastic classes, the moment I got home, said it all. We set them up on the monkey bars and were hovering on there within seconds. The rigging isn't quite high enough to fly, or for anything other than a few conditioning moves (still, that's something!), but having the silks is a tangible reminder that when life isn't plain sailing, keep the dream going, and hold on tight.





Freedom2Fly are currently running a plank challenge for the month of May and have a number of courses coming up over summer, the next being another week long course at the end of May. Check out their website www.freedom2flyda.com (click here) and contact at dancingairborne@gmail.com.

For inspiration and motivation check out the following Instagram accounts:
@freedom2flyda; Jair @jairramirez.uk; Josie @jobeejones
On the course: @miss_scaramouche; @emmehayward; @benjihanna91; @rachap314
@ellebelle_aerial; @janeedwardspage; @sassy_chai


*Secret Cinema's Moulin Rouge is running until 11 June: www.secretcinema.org/love

Tuesday, 9 May 2017

Chapter 185: Catching The Train Station Express to Circus Fit

Photo: www.thetrainstationgym.co.uk

Just before the Easter holidays a notice came up that Freedom2FlyDA (www.freedom2flyda.com) were offering a week's intensive aerial course for all levels in May. Last year I went fairly regularly to their classes on a Friday over in Hackney Wick in the warehouse space of The Hive, and I love it there. I looked at the course timings, which fit snugly within the school day, and signed up without a second thought. Then it dawned on me. I was in no fit state for circus. I hadn't done any form of training in 2017 and while I had signed up for the "beginners" group, the Freedom2Fly course was aimed at professional dancers and performers, so their starting point raised the (trapeze) bar somewhat, to say the least. 

Luckily, I still had a month to play with. But how? A chance conversation with the most inspiring teacher my son has ever had (which is saying something, given he lucks out with his teachers time and again), about how she fits in training at the crack of dawn, motivated me to look around for somewhere local where I could do the same. I didn't have far to look. A five minute walk from my house is The Train Station (www.thetrainstationgym.co.uk). It has a reputation for running hard-core classes that push the limits - I've been avoiding it like the plague for years! Here's the thing: I've always assumed gyms are for sporty people. People who take sculpting their physique pretty seriously. Iron men and women with abs of steel. Not like me, however much Floradix I may plonk into the Berroca. And while I have worked out with personal trainers in the past to build up strength for aerial training, the whole idea of stepping into a community of humourless machines terrified me. It was only when I went to a night of Box B*tch at The Transition Zone in Fulham (see Chapter 181 - click here) that I realised that there are spaces out there with a chilled urban vibe that pull no punches, but are fun with it. I hoped The Train Station would be one of them, as it had classes running from 6am that would allow me to be back home in time each morning to get the kids ready and off out to school.

Maybe it was because The Train Station is another warehouse space that I liked it instantly. It has a central area where the main training takes place with various instruments of torture to hand (dumb belle here is gradually learning the names) and a mezzanine floor for the spinning class. There are also smaller rooms in the back for yoga, osteopathy and sports massage. I noticed silks and a rope tucked away in the corner and snapped a picture for posterity on Instagram, joking #circuseverywhere. It turned out the equipment belongs to Dan, an awesome aerialist I know through Flying Fantastic (www.flyingfantastic.co.uk) when she and Victoria delivered a knock-out performance for the Christmas showcase, in PVC on aerial chains (see what I mean about hard-core! See Chapter 166 - click here). And doing a spin class yesterday with one of the instructors, Louis Bernard, was a bit surreal given I last saw Louis at Leicester Square Theatre last weekend, giving a stellar performance in the sell-out Radieuse Vermine, a Philip Ridley play that Louis also translated. Also in the audience that night was francophone Two Tongue Theatre (see post on Boys Club - click here), which is how we first met. No wonder The Train Station feels just like chez nous! 

My trial class was circuits-based, mixing up burpees and box jumps, weights and all sorts. I nearly died. We were paired up and my partner turned out to be another inspiring teacher with a young family, which kept me going. Gradually I began to get the hang of the moves and feel less conspicious. Now I go to classes around 5-7 times a week, cancelling my newspaper subscription (which I've had for over a decade) in the process to upgrade my membership. I balance classes between strength (circuits & weights), flexibility (dynamic yoga) and aerobic exercise (spinning). The trainers are superb: adaptable, super encouraging, and, most importantly for me (given the demands they make!), have a great sense of humour. Getting up at 5.30am has been a killer, but the endorphins pumping by the end more than compensate. I've always been a glass half full kind of person, even so, I am staggered by the difference it makes to my overall mood. It is extraordinary. 

Joining The Train Station has been a tremendously positive experience that has quickly become an integral part of daily life. I have a long way to go, but still, extrapolating progress over the next six months from the one month past already, I am incredibly excited by the potential. And, while I had no idea how the week at Freedom2FlyDA would pan out, when it came to Day 1 of the course last Monday, I knew that now, at least, I was well-equipped to give it my best shot...



Sunday, 30 April 2017

Chapter 184: Race Horse Company: Around


Photo: Eero Alava

Race Horse Company
is a Finnish circus troupe, currently on tour with their surreal smash hit Super Sunday which I saw last year at The Roundhouse as part of a Finnish showcase in London (see post Chapter 139 - click here). Recreating all the fun of the fair, with bodies and giant teddy bears launching into space, and the nerve-wrecking wheel of death, it was an adrenalin-pumping rollercoaster ride for the audience as much as the performers. So when I heard that the company was bringing Around, a show designed for children, to Jacksons Lane for its London debut, I couldn't wait to take mine along and share the experience. 

Photo: James Mulkeen
This time round the setting of the fair was swapped for a Big Top, complete with live band and animals. There were four performers in all, two musicians and two circus artists, though due to the variety of acts it felt like many more. On centre stage a monkey took the spotlight, strumming away on his guitar. From there things went bananas as the show followed the circus artists through a series of spectacles. A caravan of hobby horses brought a couple of acrobats in the ring, which had me laughing on a couple of counts. First in the way it was creatively done. And secondly because it reminded me that hobby horses across the Nordic countries are a bit of a thing right now, reading just the week before about the bona fide Hobby Horse Championships hosted in Helsinki this year (Race Horse Company, hello?!).

Photo: James Mulkeen
From there we were treated to a zany and gentle whirligig of incredible skill, mixed with a bonkers humour, that kept us utterly captivated. Kalle Lehto is a great physical comedian, whether as the charismatic and engaging ringmaster or the crazy frog man plunging head first into all manner of chaos. Susanna Liinamaa's serpentine contortions snaking out of a chest mesmerised my youngest as much as the hula-hoops that she spun later "as fast as wheels on a motorway, Mum". I loved the magic of the bubbles Susanna sculpted within bubbles that spun like a merry-go-round inside. To have Sami Tammela and Ben Rogers' bespoke musical score the whole way through was a real treat, and on a quirky note I enjoyed the cameos involving a musical saw and a set of pan flutes. There was sick breakdancing, uber-smooth ball and club juggling flow and plenty of general monkeying "Around". All this in 45 minutes. The mind boggles, right? The show is a real gem and part of a whole new wave of Finnish contemporary circus over increasingly in the UK that is conceptually innovative and technically excellent. Here's to more. Kippis!

Super Sunday is on tour until 3 June with Crying Out Loud, moving on next week to Salford, Norwich, Coventry, Derby and Huddersfield:
www.cryingoutloud.org/projects/rhc-super-sunday-tour-2017 (click here).


Check out Candace Chan's interview for This is Cabaret with Kalle Lehto and Rauli Kosonen, founding members of Race Horse Company:
www.thisiscabaret.com/race-horse-bring-rollercoaster-circus-show-uk/ (click here).


Wednesday, 12 April 2017

Chapter 183: Compagnie XY: It's Not Yet Midnight


Photo credit: Jane Hobson www.janehobson.com

Compagnie XY is at The Roundhouse at the moment and their show It's not yet midnight... is not to be missed. The company was last here seven years ago, with their previous show "Le Grand C", and since then has grown and now comprises 22-strong (and fit!) French acrobats whose collective philosophy - "On my own I'm faster, together we go further" - underpins their core strength. There was a real sense that operating on such a large scale opens up physical language into all sorts of interesting articulations and possibilities and I love that solidarity which brings a positive, generous energy to a world that, quite frankly, is in dire need of it right now. It also makes for a visually striking spectacle.

I saw the show last night and found myself flanked by theatre critics. It was press night, after all. Dutifully getting out my notebook too, I jotted down a few points, barely legible in the light of day, but my pen kept dropping along with my jaw, and the black ink made more of a mark on my jeans than on the page. Leafing through the notes now, I smile to see "Bloody Hell!!!" somersaulting across the page, and it brings it all back: courageous, talented, surprising, totally mesmerising, you just never know what crazy thing is round the corner with these guys. Launching like rockets from a teeterboard onto the shoulders of another, flipping on a wooden square, held aloft by others, with such ease and grace you'd have thought it were a trampoline, head to head balancing on a human table, a clown of a pony-trot across the stage... I just kept wondering, whatever next?! 

There was a metropolis feel to the production both in terms of the neutral colours of the shirts, trousers, and odd pair of braces, and the architectures created by bodies in formations. A human tree falling timber into a sea of hands... and then rising up again. A roundhouse of 11 sets of performers two-high. Towers four-high showcasing the phenomenal strength and balance not just of XY but XX in the company too. The muted tones and minimal use of props also meant that attention was squarely focussed on the performers themselves. The lighting was simple - at one point the house lights were raised for an act as though turning the tables on the audience. The music was great: I enjoyed the strains of violin accompanying the tension, the uplifting lindy hop that got toes tapping, and the moments that required no soundscape at all other than the rhythm and beat of the bodies themselves.

The performers pushed themselves, and each other, to their limits, and beyond, which was thrilling to watch. Whether fighting, embracing, balancing, throwing or tumbling, with an accent (a sexy Gallic one at that!) on risk, they truly are ceroc 'n roll stars of circus, and infectious with it. So beg, borrow, steal, or, better yet, BUY A TICKET! They are here at The Roundhouse until 23 April (click here), catch them while you can. And then again. ENCORE! 

Film credit: Remy Archer for The Roundhouse (click here)

Monday, 10 April 2017

Chapter 182: Tweedy's Lost Property

Photo credit: www.anguspictures.com

If anyone has kids at a loose end on Easter holidays, my top tip right now is to catch Tweedy at Jacksons Lane in Highgate while you can. That said, there were plenty of adults there this afternoon without children in tow, for whether you are 3 or 103, the appeal of slapstick is timeless. I have seen Tweedy clowning around in Big Tops several times now, both as part of Giffords Circus (click here for post) and Cirque Beserk "circus for grown ups" (click here for post). I love the fact he has a sense of humour as gentle as his Scottish burr, and a pet iron called Keith: he just makes me laugh! Still, as much as a draw his name is, his function as a Big Top clown
 is to provide linkage and continuity between acts, covering changes in rigging and performers. Here at Jacksons Lane, a platform for contemporary circus, he was to take centre stage for an entire show. How would that work?

Simply brilliantly is the short answer. Tweedy took classic gags, some of which will be familiar if you have seen him before, and wove them into a story with a kafkaesque ridiculousness to it, as caretaker in a lost property office, never quite reaching the phone in time and going round in circles. Through the magic of Tweedy's clowning, inanimate objects took on a life of their own and he was very, very funny. Tweedy took clowning tropes and props, like the signature bowler hat, and gave them his own twist, like his quiff of red hair at the front. He is the reassuring rebuff to such declarations that "They don't make them like that any more!" Oh yes they do. 

I went with four children in tow ranging from 5 to 11. Three of mine, who adore Tweedy already, and a friend of theirs who had never seen him in action before and had no clue what to expect. We certainly didn't expect a show long enough to warrant an interval, but there was never a dull or restless moment. As ever, cutting it fine from the trek up from South London, we arrived in the nick of time, and sat down at the front in an empty row. Of course, by rights that is asking for it, but fear not - Tweedy is an old hand in sizing up the audience and while there was some participation for sure, he made fun with, rather than fun of, those who chose to interact. It was a sheer joy to see old school slapstick and astonishing tricks so close up. Some tricks, like the dives and certain balancing acts, impressed because of the element of physical risk involved, while others, like the cigar box juggling, impressed through the sheer beauty of the skill. The kids were laughing the whole way through and were reluctant afterwards to pinpoint any favourite moment as "it was all funny Mum". I agree. Still, I had a soft spot for the scene where Tweedy donned red shoes that got his toes tapping, only to have them reclaimed while he was in his element, having fun. The shoes made me think of Moira Shearer's poignant classic (ballet) turn and clown boots rolled into one. Meanwhile the highlights for the older boys included the ladder routine and juggling precariously on a lethal rolla-bolla, while my 8 year old thought the best bit was when a violin bow was threaded through Tweedy's tongue (ew!). Meanwhile my youngest waved at Tweedy and thumbed at me when he was looking for volunteers, and it made her day to see Mummy then pulled up on stage too doing... well, find out for yourself! 

Tweedy's Lost Property is showing at Jacksons Lane  tomorrow, Tuesday 11 April at 11am and 3pm www.jacksonslane.org.uk (click here) and then has a few more dates on tour, see www.tweedyswebsite.com (click here).