SLICK! SEAMLESS! PHENOMENAL!!!
"Luce, it was hot and it was sticky, it took us over an hour to get there, but we'd do it all again in a flash for a show like that. We laughed our heads off. It's kept us pepped up all day today!"
"In a bonkers world, of so much tragedy, you have all brought together an evening of sheer joy!"Sister.
"I asked for an ensemble piece and you delivered a show!"
Adrian Berry, Artistic Director at Jacksons Lane
|María Helena Doëring & Jair Ramirez|
I love the synchronicity of that story, because it illustrates a theory to which I hold: that people of "sympathetic vibrations" gravitate towards each other. In fact, I used that principle when curating this show, gathering together performers I was drawn to from different disciplines and communities (contemporary circus, pole, outdoor arts, cabaret, London, Bristol, Finland) who didn't necessarily know each other beforehand, and throwing them together to see how the chemistry worked and what would come out of it. The teamwork was then woven together by Sean Kempton and Michaela O'Connor, who make one hell of a double act. It was a huge success. Video and photos were recorded, so you will be able to see the footage soon, and why there has been such wonderful feedback on Twitter, but in the meantime, I hope the words below give you a feel for the evening...
Watching Ssshhh! as a regular punter was utterly magical. The technical run through on the day, looking at lighting and sound cues, had not prepared me for the costume, the colour and the ambience. I was spellbound from the word go, as Sean Kempton played around with light in the darkness and had a light on a long pole bouncing from one random audience member to another. It was beautiful. As he turned to go back to his desk a giant of a figure materialised from the shadows. It was Onni Toivonen, a cross between Lurch, from the Adams Family and Loki, god of mischief, messing up Sean's game as he tried to write notes for the show. Pages came out of a book of light naming acts for the evening ... Pole... Trapeze... The next one was blank. And then it went up in flames. A voice came on overhead, in an interview. It was mine. I'd heard it enough times by now not to visibly squirm. Who is this Lucy Loves Circus? What is this evening all about? What are the three, no wait, make that four, qualities you'd like to see in the show tonight Lucy? Strength... kookiness... tease... playfulness... spotlights alighting briefly on a corresponding performer with that quality, the last one left on Michaela. Those really were the buzzwords driving the evening with this oddball family.
|Molly Orange: Leave. Now.|
|Michaela O'Connor and Sean Kempton|
Another of my favourite moments followed as Hamish came on in a dressing gown, pink socks and slippers, carrying a pair of scales. Onni was there to read out the number. 82 kilos he announced, in a comically flat tone. Hamish went out, came back with a kettle bell, then another and then finally he lifted up Onni and took him onto the scales. Onni bends his head round to read the number. Pause. You broke the scales. Then came the kettle-bell juggling, disrobing from the dressing-gown to reveal a pair of hair waisted tight gold shorts, which one of my dearest friends who is Russian noted with delight was a nod to the wardrobe of famous kettle-bell legend Valentin Dikul. I doubt the knee high pink socks were though! I have to say this act was the scariest for me. I had heard them thud thickly on floorboards a couple of days before and the noise made me jump every time. I had also played around with picking them up. Not easy. The one that is 32 kilos in weight was a killer! So watching Hamish swing them around, flip them, toss them up onto one hand, had both a weighted beauty and was also rather nerve-wrecking. Comic relief came at the end as Molly Orange strode in with her minion Michaela in tow, each grabbing a bell and struggling off, while Esquire De Lune walked in, nonchalantly picked up the lightest thing there (the scales) and casually wandered off.
Cheryl Teagan on aerial pole performed a haunting piece in a diaphanous white skirt overlaying a silver tunic as the tease. It was an ethereal, beautiful act and my goodness how elastic and fluid were her movements. The flawless performance prompted Michaela and Molly Orange to set their sights on a new target and they ran across the stage after her, new BFFs with daggers at the ready, while Red Sarah was bringing a flaming torch up the rear (!). It was rather gratifying, and not a little hilarious, to hear that my neighbour's husband thought that the pole dancer was me wearing a hairpiece, and thinking of Tweedy again, in a blonde wig doing the cancan routine with Giffords Circus, I'm wondering if there isn't scope for a little clowning piece in there for me. I've put my audition piece on Instagram, but I've yet to hear back from Sean...
Last up was Onni Toivonen juggling, and I was really excited about this moment, because here's the thing: pole, aerial, fire, and all those sideshow skills had a wow factor that people warm to immediately. But many people simply couldn't give a toss about juggling, and if anyone could change that, I knew it would be Onni. I was gutted for him that the whole Gandini Juggling family were in France for the weekend for a reunion of "Smashed" and "4x4" (click here), but there were still a fair few exceptional jugglers in the audience able to witness his brilliance from a technical viewpoint, and several fellow Finns in the crowd as well watching his UK debut. Onni performed his graduation piece from DOCH (the university of dance and circus in Stockholm), from where he has just graduated and it was utterly brilliant. Sticking to clubs, so keeping it simple, accentuated the complexity of the movements and tricks he was executing. I loved the balance of three clubs he made on his head, the cascades, the flips, the sense of humour after a drop giving himself a swift clock on the head with another club, or taking advantage of a pause to pick out a piece of cotton wool stuck between his toes left over by Danny's Shaun Sheep! The way Onni carried on and persevered to lead to the most triumphant and astonishing finale led to a triumphant and thunderous applause. I lost track of how many people said to me (and I wonder how many to him) "I never thought juggling was my thing, but seeing Onni has changed all that..." So yes, Onni was the showstopper I always knew he would be, only the show didn't stop there...
|Danny Ash, Molly Orange, Onni Toivonen, Michaela O'Connor|
For the grand finale, set to "Brazil" each volunteer was invited to perform their own solo, while Sean announced them by name. They were all brilliant, from the shimmies to the leaps and bounds, a cheeky cameo cartwheel from Jair and a quick handstand dance off with Sean. A handstand from another volunteer as well was fab. Ah, it was brilliant, everyone got into the spirit of the music and the applause brought the roof down. Afterwards we spilled out of the auditorium and into the bar, which luckily was open til midnight. Bravo! Encore, guys!
Some of my favourite people in the world were at the show last night. Latitude and summer holidays robbed me of a fair few more, but the good luck cards sent in absentia came with me to the theatre, including one from the Outer Hebrides from my virtual friend Hannah, who I have never actually met, but is very much a kindred spirit over in the Twittersphere. Her thoughtfulness touched me beyond words. It meant so much to me that my husband Xav, some of my siblings and my niece were able to see the show. I have put so much time and energy into the circus scene and this blog over the past two years, often at their expense and they have quite rightly called me on it time and again. It hasn't been easy. To share this evening with them, to show them all that I love, and why I love it, has been a real gift. And as for all those complete strangers, who showed their appreciation for the performers so vociferously, well, it was just wonderful and beyond my wildest dreams. So if anyone out there saw the show and would like to see it again, or has any ideas about how we might fund it, please let us know!
Thank you Ade Berry for inviting me to curate a night at Jacksons Lane, and to Flora Herberich and the team who have been there every step of the way. It has been an incredible opportunity, a very steep learning curve and a fantastic experience.
As for you, Sean, Michaela, Danny, Lucy, Sarah, Cheryl, Brett, Hamish and Onni, what can I say?! You have given far more than I would ever have dreamed of asking for. Thanks for all those good vibes, you are terrific and it has been a lot of fun. Ssshhh!