Saturday, 5 July 2014

Chapter 24: From Circus Space to Dream Space - Midnight Circus

"A dreamer is one who can only find his way by moonlight, and his punishment is that he sees the dawn before the rest of the world"

 - Oscar Wilde, 1888.
 in The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

It's 5.30am on Saturday morning.  After a sultry, humid few days the weather has finally broken and the rain is flooding down.  I'm here at my laptop, still in a dream state.  I have been woken by the Toddler, aka The Escape Artiste, looking cherubic, but the early hour was my punishment nonetheless.

The moonlight in question radiated from AirCraft Circus' show "Midnight Circus" last night, at Jacksons Lane, up in Highgate.  It was a stunning ensemble of contortion, acrobalance, aerial and pole skills.   

"And fire.  Lots of fire." As the programme promised.

It was a funny old route getting to Midnight Circus.  It started with this blog, specifically Chapter 19:  The Snake Charmers (see link). Getting back in touch with Stormy to ask for permission to use the striking photo of circus performer Katrina Lilwall for the blog, she then mentioned the show Kat is currently in.  The radar that had already started flashing from general Twitter buzz/feed on Midnight Circus, then started going into overdrive, siren sounding.  Actually more like a blast from the Eigenharp that heralded the beginning of the show, belonging to the show's musician, Dave Kemp.  The instrument is an electronic cross between piano, sax and drum, no strings attached  - click here for BBC feature and video - and apparently there are only six in existence.  


Getting to Highgate for 8pm was no mean feat, as I pegged it barefoot to the tube and halved my normal running time down the concrete brick road.  That's halved, even factoring in the time it took to sit down on the school wall round the corner from the tube entrance to strap myself into a pair of Louboutin sandals.  From ruby slippers to scarlet soles, my token gesture to the night ahead.  Red is the mascot colour for circus after all - a nod to Erin Morgenstern's "The Night Circus: where the followers, or "rêveurs", of the Circus of Dreams, aka the enchanting "Le Cirque des Rêves", sport red scarfs.   Funny that the parallel only occurred to me much later on the way home. 

Jacksons Lane is a former church, and it's a heavenly space.   Every time I see a converted church it reminds me of Iain Banks' "Espedair Street",  that charts the rise and struggles of a rock star, now living in a Victorian church folly in Glasgow.  It's a book that made me howl with laughter, and if it had only been written a couple of decades later, I bet the novel Eigenharp would have featured.   Jacksons Lane is a welcoming space too.  Only that morning its Artistic Director had picked up on Twitter, via a throwaway comment, that I had misplaced my tickets, and immediately offered to sort out replacements. That type of thoughtfulness speaks volumes about the set-up there. 

The performance space itself was intimate, and it was free-seating.  By the time we wandered in, we found, in rather typical British fashion, that the audience had arranged itself so that the prime seats at the front were still free, oh the joy! The staging was vintage circus, atmospheric, dry ice rolling in.  While we were waiting my French companion, the surprise skateboarding juggler mentioned in Chapter 21, asked me what I know about the improv scene in British theatre.  I think comedy, back to Josie Lawrence duetting with Tony Slattery to Clive Andersen's delight in "Whose Line is it Anyway?" years ago.  Beyond that, I'm sorry I haven't a clue. But if we are talking immersive theatre, that's another story, and maybe another post.  All I will say here is that it should come to no surprise to any reader of the "The Night Circus", see the trailer below, that the immersive theatre experience of the Punchdrunk company, whose current Hollywood Fable: The Drowned Man ends tomorrow night, is cited in the closing credits to the novel.

My impressions of the show were of sheer skill and adventure.  The proximity to the cast creates an immediacy that envelopes the audience, who feed off the creative juices flowing with vampiric gusto and are energised as a result. My husband was a case in point.  Dead after work, watching the show really brought him back to life.  So afterwards, in the bar, it was fascinating, and not a little exciting, to learn that The Hangar where AirCraft Circus train in North Greenwich is also a teaching space for adults and children alike. If the performers are anything to go by it is flexible, familiar, innovative circus space creating dream works.

I loved the suit whose jacket reverses into a motley affair, part tramp, part company fool.   Doesn't that apply to us all? The sleek striptease and sharp intake of breathe as a red dress slithers to the ground leading into the most  sizzlingly beautiful of lovers' duets on silks.  

I am wild about the girls duetting in leopard print on the static trapeze, who, it turns out, seamlessly brought in a touch of improv to the act, respect.   The turn on pole made me nostalgic (see The Polelogue) as well as being sexy as hell. Sizzling sapphic embraces. Straps, ropes, nets and tumbling bodies. The synchronicity of the trio on trapeze, tart fizz, eye-popping candy.   The disco-lit (somewhere-over-the) rainbow flashing hula hoops are still a blur. 

We marvelled at the dexterity and simplicity of their lines lover's duet in the contortionist's bowl.  I coveted the gold hareem pants, and it's good to know the multi-faceted Kat had designed and made all the costumes, so I can get my order in. 

The golden fire, burning bling, I've never seen anything like it. The whole company was aflame at the end.   Wheels of fire are clicked together so that sparks fly.  I loved the tease of the flame swallowing, and the devil taunting our motley fool with fire sticks, the spinning circlets of fire and the industrial-strength spark shooters.   Before you know it, the show ends in a flash.  And the audience is left to smoulder out.  Illuminated.

Aircraft Circus.  MIDNIGHT CIRCUS.  18th June - 12th July 2014.   
Jackson's Lane
Photos: courtesy of Stormy Sloane at Rebel & Romance
Further review here in Kate Kavanagh's The Circus Diaries

"There is so much that glows in the circus, from flames to lanterns to stars."

- Friedrick Thiessen, 1894.
The Night Circus, Erin Morgernstern

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: only a member of this blog may post a comment.