"The Circus. She is a jealous bitch. She will wreck your head, wreck your home, wreck your heart, wreck your harp…"
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These words open the trailer (see below or click here) of Belfast-based Tumble Circus. I'd been alerted to them by friends going to see them recently and found their words have resonated ever since. Immersed in circus these past six months, I see #circuseverywhere to the point where I wonder if I'm hallucinating. So I took photos to share. It's not just me, right?! There are days when it does feel as though circus has indeed wrecked my head, home, heart and harp. Amazing how a little bit of overlooked household admin can spiral into dreams of tumbling tumbleweed and partners on cyr wheels spinning out of control, while tugging at the harp-strings has been a sadly neglected practice of late. There are days when I do indeed say, Damn, the Circus! But oh, then there's the Love of it.
Nowhere gets, and celebrates, this dark humour, quite like Cabaret. So on Tuesday night, I went with Anne, my old Circus Space partner-in-crime, to the Albert Hall for dinner at Red's, where cabaret was served up with a twist of circus. The MCs for the evening were the fabulesque Red (Miss Polly Rae) and her Ruby (Reuben Kaye) last seen in Boylexe (see Chapter 34 - click here), on fire as ever with quick-draw repartee. There was comedy and a hint of sauce one the menu, and a Bad Kitty Bang Bang into the bargain, but this was Prince Albert's in Kensington, not Madame Jojo's (RIP) in Soho. Which is to say the acts were terrific, while the audience, bar the cluster of gems on the table next to us, felt a bit lacking in lustre. Anne's handstand teacher from Circus Space, Sammy Dinneen, was the incarnation of graceful strength, while the beauty of the shining Pole Star Klodi in the title picture left me breathless, both acts making the impossible seem effortless. Check out Anne's review of the evening here: "On Connections, Cabaret and Red Shoes"
Sammy Dinneen at Red's Cabaret
Watching the circus acts I was struck by the fact that here are incredibly strong, young performers, being observed by a rather more mature crowd. What would we sacrifice, I wondered, to have that strength, beauty and agility? A question that reverberated a couple of days later with a visit to the Greenwich townhouse of Mr Dorian Gray, where the Alchemic Order lived up to their name and brought Wilde's portrait to life, quite literally (there are two Dorians).
I have always loved the book, the brilliant social observations and dry wit, with the relentless gothic menace underpinning the story. In this production the audience is invited to a promenade, following the story round a series of spaces indoor and out. The whole house is given over to the spirit of Oscar Wilde and you cannot help but yield to the magic it works on you. The rose petals, candles, spices, music, satin sheets, silk throws, peepholes and hidden spaces all frame a picture painted by a stellar cast of gothic mystery and the damning desire for impossible, beautiful, youth. See Anne's blog "Passion for all - Dorian Gray and Immersive Theatre" - click here. Despite being so carried away by the company that we missed the last train home, I feel strangely rejuvenated today. In a week when I have been questioning and challenging my own relentless pursuit of all things circus, and whether writing is not its own form of narcissism, I am both comforted, and not a little disturbed, by Lord Henry's advice to Dorian, as lethal as absinthe and alluring as opium,
"The only way to get rid of temptation is to yield it."
Damn the Circus, indeed!
Note: Tonight (Saturday, 20th December) is the last showing of Alchemic Order's Dorain Gray. Still, if you've missed it, check out their website at www.thealchemicorder.com (click here). That is an adventure in itself, and keep your eyes wide shut following @alchemicorder on Twitter, and on Facebook, for news of the return of the production next year.
And do follow Anne's blog at www.mylondonpassion.com (click here) and tweets @mylondonpassion. Not only does Anne know what she is talking about (she is a City of London tour guide), she is very, very funny.