LucyLovesCircus

Sunday, 18 February 2018

Au Revoir, Mon Amour!



I once never had an affair. Well, wouldn’t you? Burning with a desire I could barely grasp, I reached out and gave You everything I had, body and words, then twisting, turning, smouldering, blazing, falling, I spun out of control. Circus is a jealous bitch, you see, as Tumble Circus once declared. Give Her your heart, and She will and take your soul. Damn the Circus!

But if you want to truly know your lover, set them free. I am all at sea now, realising a long-held dream with Xavier, sailing round the world with our three young children on a 40 foot catamaran called La Cigale. She is named after Cicada in La Fontaine, and Aesop’s Fable, who dances Her way through summer, and come Autumn has to sing for her supper. Since October, we have crossed the Bay of Biscay, then on our journey down the Iberian coast slipped through Hurricane Ophelia’s clutches (just!), and sailed from the Canaries across the Atlantic Ocean to the Caribbean. This week we set sail for the San Blas islands, possibly stopping over at the ABC, then through the Panama Canal in March, to the Galapagos in April, and from there across the Pacific... The wifi that has been intermittent at best up until now, will soon slip away altogether. 


So Goodbye for now, or rather, Au Revoir au Cabaret... Auf Wiedersehen, Pet. And Thank You. I leave behind my funny Valentine, and take your music with me, the notes of clowning around, juggling minims and tugging at silken strings. The physical and mental courage of the many artists and creatives I have met along the way has been nothing short of inspirational, and the virtual support of readers all over the world has kept me reaching out in turn. The fire and passion from this connection has made me stronger, forging an iron will in flames that feather and fan, and I am channelling that energy now into circusnavigating the globe with my family. One day I’ll be back, and in the meantime you can find me writing my heart out at www.sailinglacigale.com.


Love and onions, 
Lucy 

Martinique, 18 February, 2018.

Photo credit:  Stormy Sloane, Rebel and Romance (click here)

Friday, 16 February 2018

Chapter 216: A Circus Valentine


"Not a red rose or a satin heart. 

I give you an onion. 
It is a moon wrapped in brown paper. 
It promises light
like the careful undressing of love. 

Here. 
It will blind you with tears
like a lover. 
It will make your reflection a wobbling photo of grief.

I am trying to be truthful. 

Not a cute card or a kissogram.

I give you an onion. 
Its fierce kiss will stay on your lips,
possessive and faithful
as we are, 
for as long as we are. 

Take it. 
Its platinum looks shrink to a wedding ring, 
if you like. 
Lethal. 
Its scent will cling to your fingers, 
cling to your knife. 


Valentine,   by  Carol Ann Duffy

Wednesday, 15 November 2017

Chapter 215: VOILA! EUROPE - Juggling - Robin Boon Dale

Photo Credits: Be Festival

"This is a historic occasion. We haven't seen jugglers at the Cockpit Theatre for 17 years!" declared Ringmaster Dave, Artistic Director of The Cockpit theatre, in Marylebone, in a tone that had a twinkle of a challenge to the opening act as much as a welcome. It was the first circus scratch night Circus in the Pound (see blogpost Chapter 163 - click here), so named as the entry fee is only a quid into the traffic cone at the entrance. The act being introduced was a work in progress between Gandini Juggling's José Triguero and Chris Patfield, and juggling is now back centre stsge at The Cockpit  with artist Robin Boon Dale, this time as part of VOILA! EUROPE 2017, the non-Brexit fearing theatre festival that busts the barriers of language, and showcases plays from around Europe and the UK to the multi-national audiences of London: see www.voilaeuropefestival.com - click here. As a Brit who has just sailed under a Swiss flag down from France, via Spain and Portugal, and is currently moored in Las Palmas on a pontoon with Swedish, Danish, Dutch and German families, I am very much there in spirit with a festival that brings together such a Euro-Vision.

The festival is the brainchild of Sharlit Deyzac, who has been touring the acclaimed Boys Club with Leonor Lemee as part of Two Tongue Theatre (see blogpost - click here), that came to Jacksons Lane Postcards Festival this summer. VOILA! EUROPE has a cracking line up of provocative, hilarious, life-enhancing, boundary challenging shows running until Saturday 18 November. And this year the programme has a touch of circus thanks to the presence of Robin Boon Dale and his show What Does Stuff Do? 

Circomedia graduate Robin was one of a trio of artists in the excellent bar flair act Shakedown that I heard about earlier this year thanks to Kate Hartoch, organiser with Lina Frank of Circus City, Bristol's Biennial Circus Festival that took place to great acclaim this October (check out the photogallery for starters: www.bristolcircuscity.com/gallery and www.circusdiaries.com for reportage). Robin told me his show is the extension of an ongoing research project entitled "Is Juggling Liquid?" which explores ideas about creative notation and object oriented philosophy through circus skills and I'm intrigued by the description of this new show which has already won the ACT festival prize this summer and just returned from tour in Spain as part of the "Best of BE Festival":



In his charmingly rhetorical debut show, Robin Dale utilises innovative juggling, physical comedy, and almost-philosophy to guide you through his mind and body of research.
What Does Stuff Do? is a lecture style performance in which Robin strives to understand the ever-unfolding relationships between people and stuff, and to help fill in the space between art and science.
Featuring an assortment of unexpected props and a motivational speech delivered by a man in swimming trunks. Please, bracket for the next 30 minutes any scepticism about the value of the totally obvious.
What Does Stuff Do? is on Thursday, 16 November 2017 8.30pm. 
Find @RobinBoonDale on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook Page. 
VOILA! EUROPE festival runs until Saturday, 18 November at several venues: The Cockpit, Etcetera and Applecart Arts. Check out the shows www.voilaeuropefestival.com/work


Monday, 9 October 2017

Chapter 214: Postcard from La Rochelle

 Seul, on va plus vite. Ensemble, on va plus loin.
On my own, I go faster. Together, we go further.



My stomach lurches each time we walk along the sea wall.  We are in France, in La Rochelle, and the French are pretty laissez-faire when it comes to health and safety. It is clearly a well-trodden walkway, yet there is no sign of a barrier, a "garde-fou" or "protecting-the-idiot" (moi!). The wall is a good couple of feet across, the drop either side barely a few feet, threatening at most a twisted ankle, yet despite my love of tightwire, my palms sweat each time as I follow my children, who are skipping along without a care in the world. One day my youngest slipped her hand through mine. "Mum, why did you decide we should go sailing round the world when you love circus? It must be hard to like two things at the same time." 

For nearly a month now we have been living in La Rochelle and working on the boat. It is a very pretty old port, one that I can still hardly believe exists after reading about it for years in the Tricolore textbooks at school. I have fallen for the towers at the entrance to the old harbour, the cobbled streets in the pedestrian centre, the houses set behind walls, doors sometimes opening onto an inner courtyard to offer a stealthy glimpse of a grande manor or hidden secrets. Now into October the wave of tourists is subsiding, but the tide of bicycles is pretty constant, and we zip around on our Bromptons too, our helmets a clear indication that we are visitors. We have stayed in three different Airbnbs here now, finally moving onto our boat this week, a 40ft catamaran called La Cigale. She is named after the Cicada in the old La Fontaine/Aesop's Fable story, singing and dancing her way through summer while her friend Ant toils makes yproverbial hay while the sun shines in readyness for the winter months. For us the music in the name conjures up continental summer evenings, and, of course, she will always be our "Sea Gal".  Ironically though, with all the preparations in tow, I feel more formicide than singing bug right now, but it's all about balance: connecting with both the industrious Ant and the carefree Cicada. That is why I turned to learning recreational circus skills several years ago at a time when I couldn't see the wood for the trees. Circus, and cicadas, are a state of mind. 
I carry my circus aerialist necklace with me, a talisman from a dear friend, my sea-green silks are safely stowed on board (picked up from Jair during a week intensive at Freedom2Fly - click here) as are a whole bag of juggling balls (in case any slip overboard), but still, I do miss actual circus, the community.

Then one day passing La Coursive, a renowned theatre-dance space here, a Gallic Sadlers Wells, I saw a poster advertising Cirque Le Roux bringing Elephant in the Room to La Rochelle next week. It accentuated, if not homesickness or "mal du pays" exactly, rather a sense of "mal du cirque". I had seen these guys up at the Edinburgh Fringe a couple of years ago (see post - click here), and would have loved to see the production again, wondering how it had developed over the past couple of years, and what it would be like to see it in such a different environment among a non-circus going crowd - or so I assume. Cirque Eloize brought I. D. to La Rochelle a couple of years ago, but contemporary circus does not feature heavily in La Coursive's programme in general. When it transpired that further delays to the boat meant I'd be in town to see them after all, I was further gutted to find the dates were completely sold out. 

Ah well, maybe it really is simply time to open a new chapter and not look back as my youngest assumes. But then the day we moved onto the boat a funny thing happened: I passed by the maritime-themed playground my daughters adore in centre-ville, next to the harbour, to find all sorts of circus shenanigans taking place. My Flying Fantastic-loving daughter spotted the black silks rigged first and tugged at my arm. Mum, look! It turned out that the new playground was being inaugurated that day and Cirque en Scène www.cirque-scene.fr, both a training space and company from 45 minutes down the road in Niort, had been brought in to entertain with all sorts of activities. They had a trapeze up too, a training tight-wire, rolla-bolla, globe, all sorts of juggling equipment and equilibristic apparatus. We were in seventh heaven, because, of course, I joined in too. I loved watching one of the trainers Mikhail clowning around with the kids, putting on his Donald Duck voice and getting them to fall about laughing so they would relax and forget their fear. It worked on the Mummy too, when persuaded up on my old nemesis of the globe, a hard ball that requires the penguin tapping of happy feet to balance atop. The girls and I are itching now to string up our silks alongside the sheets and get cracking again. Setting sail out of the Bay of Biscay on Wednesday, who knows what circus stories we'll discover down the road...

If you are interested in following our sailing journey, we have set up a webiste for friends at www.sailinglacigale.com. My husband has posted a few videos and photos there already and I will be writing a blog at some point too...

Tuesday, 29 August 2017

Chapter 213: Lucy Leaves London



I left London last week, a decade of family life boxed into three storage containers, and I am now living out of a single suitcase. Thinking of James Thierrée* I half expect the suitcase to sprout legs and run off. No wifi, one bar of reception on the mobile, if we're lucky, and we are not sure of our date yet to set sail, but it is full steam ahead with preparations.

For many years, my husband and I have talked about sailing round the world and it is a love of boats that brought us together. We both rowed at university, the same position it turned out (Bow 3, The Powerhouse), we met years later at The Boat Race, and our honeymoon was spent sailing round the Caribbean, just the two of us. Since then life intervened and I have followed a crazy career path. Who could predict that, after working for five years as a chartered accountant and charities auditor at a Yanquee Imperialist Firm (Andersens - brought down by a few clowns at Enron), I would move a few doors down from their offices on The Strand to Kings College London to carry on with post-graduate research into the Marxist critical theory at play in contemporary Cuban theatre. The irony was not lost on me, nor on the still-suited partners (now part of Deloitte's) who I would bump into in the equidistant common ground of Caffè Nero, now clad in my jeans and trainers.  And, in a further twist, to go from academia to juggling three children and part-time work to fund this full-time circus passion has been a real learning curve.  

Still, nothing has quite prepared me for the rollercoaster of the past few months. A romantic dream to sail round the world with my family some time in the future is an altogether different proposition to "right, it's now or never" that has come to its climax over the past few weeks. I say nothing has prepared me, when actually there was something. Lunch with Sean Kempton one day after Shhh! circus cabaret, where he sat me down and talked through each one of my fears and reservations, playing devil's adddvocate in a way that only a clown can. A clown who has travelled the world and a fellow parent. It struck me then that being part of the circus ecosystem has been invaluable, and maybe the best preparation of all. There is the intuitive understanding of how travel broadens the mind and makes the whole world Kin, and thanks to social media I feel part of a wider international community, with friends there to welcome us virtually in any port in the world. Writing this blog I have developed a strong sense of self too: "word painter" is how Thom Monckton described me. I like that. And the past few years of aerial training has well-equipped me for the heave-ho of ropes and clambering up masts, both in terms of developing upper body strength and a head for heights. 

Still, it is a strange sensation to leave London, a city I love above all others, and which I know so intimately, appreciating it from so many different perspectives. In fact, it is love for London and the people in it that inspired the name of this blog. Knowing I would one day leave, for years I have been steeling myself, and set up a private Instagram account called LucyLovesLondon, a scrapbook of family moments and friendship that I could look back on and smile. So when I started this circus diary, LucyLovesCircus seemed a logical choice. Love for me is not a saccharine-sweet endorsement that LucyLovesEverything. Love is an act of resistance, a statement of intention to carve out a positive space in the world. Love gives the artist courage to step out in the sawdust arena and bare their soul. Love engages. Love dares. Love risks. Love is the endgame. And Circus is a Ring of Love. Infinite. Diverse. Inclusive. So this is not the end of the blog, nor of my circus adventures, but the pace will slow down now, probably to about 5 knots an hour. Bear with with me, and I'll be sure to keep you posted, as and when I can. After an afternoon running away off to the circus (see post), now yours, in nofit state to set sail, Lucy.





*When James Thierrée brought The Toad Knew to Sadlers Wells in May, he talked afterwards about how, as part of his parents' Cirque Imaginaire, he and his sister would be carried on stage by their father, each in a suitcase, then when plonked on the ground, they would pop out their legs through holes in the bottom and run away.

Friday, 18 August 2017

Chapter 212: Bassline Circus: FLIP

AndroidX in FLIP
All photos & videography courtesy of Bassline Circus

"Luce, are you coming up to Jacksons Lane to see Bassline Circus today?" I hadn't planned on it. Home alone packing up the house on a very tight deadline, the fact that it was Transmission season was not really on my radar. But it was Leonor from Two Tongue Theatre (see Boys Club - click here) asking, and I wanted to catch up and say goodbye. And I do love the whole concept of Transmission, a circus residency programme run by Jacksons Lane giving at least a week to up to six companies a year to experiment with and develop ideas with full technical support from the theatre. There is no pressure to deliver a finished project at the end, the companies are simply invited to share where they are at and a questions and answers session generally follows. It is always super interesting to see the play and potential. Going to Transmission with three kids in tow though. How would that work?! Well, we could always discreetly slip into the back row... 

"Mum, what are we going to see?" Well, kids, we are off to see a vectorised circus concert... I didn't reply. In fact, I wasn't quite sure myself what to expect. What the FLIP?! A blend of hiphop dance, circus and graphics, it sounded like festival fun, a bit trippy. Still, nothing quite prepared me. 

Back in the foyer at Jacksons Lane, meeting up with Leonor after Postcards Festival was a funny feeling. Boys Club had been part of Postcards as well. The big top of bunting in the foyer was still up, and my son was chuffed to recognise Simple Cypher lads Kieran & Chris on a poster after seeing them there last time for Cypher Stories (click here). But the chalk board now had the Autumn programme up. We went in. Encouraged by one of the ushers, my 5 year old marched straight to the front row. I do trust my kids to behave, I reflected, while confiscating any potential noise disrupters (like crisp packets!).

Director Bex Anson introduced FLIP. Today we would see excerpts with a couple of the dancers: the Krumper AndroidX, and Flexer Kaner Flex for this sharing. In future there will be a handbalancer and the vocals of singer songwriter and emcee Eva Lazarus (see www.evalazarus.com). FLIP is an interpretation of Mathieus Malzieu's story of "The Boy With a Cuckoo-Clock Heart", transplanting the story into a boy with a pace-maker - a neat complementarity there with the robotic elements of hiphop movement - who falls in love on-line and enters a world that questions perceptions of reality, exploring impossible worlds. What followed was an awesome blend of krumping (dance), tutting (hand movements) and flexing (contortion that gave the piece a circus stamp) against a backdrop onto which all sorts of graphics were projected and vectorised by Dav Bernard. The sharing was in two scenes. In the first "dimension" the graphics followed the movement of the dancers, who literally emanated energy. It was as though we could see the mind at play on the screen behind, a running narrative of the dancer's psyche. And I was not surprised afterwards to hear the dancers appreciated the organic dynamics of having what they intuitively realise and visualise when they move choreographed on the screen behind them. 




In the second the dancers stepped behind the screen and their shadows played into world of virtual reality, responding to a maze of scenarios that was completely mesmerising and pulled us as an audience onto a rollercoaster of an experience with them. It was clever, being drawn into the perspective of the protagonist, disorientated, searching, negotiating all manner of visual paradoxes, while for the kids it was like stepping into a computer game themselves. It will be interesting to see how these two parts, in essence fairly abstract still, will be propelled by the narrative going forward. 




Afterwards in the Q&A session with Adrian Berry, Artistic Director of Jacksons Lane, my 9yo whispered that the dance moves had reminded her of Jungle Book (Metta Theatre's production: click here), and I was glad to hear that Bassline Circus will be exploring relaxed viewings for families going forward, as my kids thought it was utterly brilliant. I would also like to see it again in full "concert" mode, interested to hear the plans to include live vocals and fully immerse the audience, getting them on their feet just like mine wanted to. The fusion of dance, circus and visual arts that I saw has already created a unique experience that synergised, as well as energised, the audience. Going forward it will be exciting to see how this experience expands: as it stands it was mind-bending and virtually life-affirming. 

Check out Bassline Circus www.basslinecircus.org on social media @BasslineCircus for news of further developments. Next stop in Autumn: Stratford Circus. 

Wednesday, 16 August 2017

Chapter 211: Blind Date with Velvet Box Office

"Blind Date"
Photo: Connie Tsang from www.torontoist.com

You know those dreams where you are caught short wandering around naked in a public place? Writing a blog is a bit like that. I write a body of text and put myself out there, aware that in so doing I expose myself and will be judged, even if the blog is not meant to be about me, but circus and the amazing people in it that I have met on the way. The other thing about my blog is that people rarely comment on the actual writing, so it feels like I am free to dance as though no-one is watching, even if the hits tell a different tale.

Social media is another story. I am constantly amazed over the past three years how many wonderful people I've met by picking up friendly vibes and then meeting up in person. One such person is Tina from Velvet Box Office (VBO), who I met over on Twitter @velvetboxoffice drawn to the listings feed that reflects her passion for cabaret, circus, spoken word, family shows and is the go-to place for finding out the latest on what's on. I think we fell into conversation on-line after I had waxed lyrical about Puddles Pity the Clown in La Soirée and we then discovered we also shared a love for coffee and cake (always a clincher!). We chatted about meeting up, but as Tina lives in Brighton and we both have kids, it was real juggling act. Now that leaving the UK is on the horizon, with preparations underway to set sail in the Autumn, time is running out.


Packing up my life into cardboard boxes and love into bubblewrap, and looking after the kids while my husband was in France sailing back the catamaran from La Rochelle, overwhelmed by the to-do list, I reflected that I was perhaps in nofit state for making new friends, but life is not about perfect timings is it? And hanging around clowns has taught me that sometimes you can be the best entertainment when you show yourself warts and all, so Tina and I found a date, and she very kindly came over to ours with her son for lunch. 

It was funny actually, I had the kind of nerves you would imagine on a blind date, but the moment Tina walked through the door with her wonderful son, a gentle giant shooting up just like mine and just a year older, there was an instant familiarity, a natural progression from our internet banter that acted as a cue for the kids to hit it off too. Lost in conversation with Tina while the kids raced around, negotiating with nerf guns the obstacle course that is our house at the moment, I managed to overcook the sausages and undercook the chips, but the cream cakes that my five year old had chosen in the supermarket saved the day! 

We talked about what brought us here, where we'd like to go, and discovered we had much in common. Tina started her listings service because enjoyed watching comedy up at the Fringe but discovered there was no follow through about how to find out where their gigs would be when back down in London. Gigs would be word of mouth, possibly updated on a performer's website but often forgotten. Wouldn't it be a great idea to have it all in one place to spread the word? VBO is now a roaring success thanks to all Tina's hard work and passion. 

It's funny, because I've become known as a circus promoter, spreading the word, and like Tina, am a one-woman brand. So we swapped notes on what it was like juggling children and family life with these babies. Tina reckons she puts in about 30 hours a week. I would say I approach that factoring in writing blog posts, attending events and training, and the social media either side of that.  We shared and laughed about the challenges we face when our raison d'etre is misinterpreted - in Tina's case with cabaret venues assuming her "Box Office" is taking their ticket sales when in fact VBO simply provides a link direct to theirs. For me it's when "Lucy Loves Circus" is mistaken for anything other than the record of a circus journey, written in chapters, sharing a novel experience:

Mum of three starts training in circus, falls flat on her face, looks up, hooks up with a couple of clowns and gets a show together.  Comes back for an encore and then sails off into the sunset...

"You can't stop there!" said Tina. And while I was looking forward to a break, I had to admit she's right. I'm not quite ready to sever the umbilical cord quite yet. Off to circusnavigate the globe soon, this is a story still To be continued...

In the meantime, check out Velvet Box Office on Twitter and over Instagram too. I've been loving the updates - the little video snippets of Barely Methodical Troupe's Kin she shared with me the other day from up at The Fringe, and the soundbites from what she saw next. The phenomenal Head First Acrobat's Elixir, Recirquel's Paris de Nuit,  Tapeface... would all be top of my list too and I would love to see them with her. So if you are up in Edinburgh at the moment catch Tina around - she is loads of fun, great company, and have an eclair on me!