Friday, 23 December 2016

Chapter 168: #2016BestNine

My favourite images of 2016:
Tightwire artist Alana Jones at The Cockpit (click here), Ken Dodd & Yours Truly, Slava's Snowshow (click here)
La Soirée with Carolyn, 40th Birthday card from my friend Yolanda, Jair's birthday Freedom2Fly style at The Hive
Flying Fantastic Scratch Night Elves (click here), Mother's Day, Christmas Stag 

There is an app linked to Instagram that collates the nine most liked posts of the year, and it has started me thinking about alternatives.  What were my #2016bestnine? I put together my 9 favourite images and then compared it to the automatically generated result. It was amusing to see we only overlapped on one photo, which I took only a couple of nights ago, of performer Danny Ash clowning around on a hoop in my Christmas sunglasses. It is fabulously festive, circus style, and all in the best possible taste!

Amongst the fun and frolics, 2016 has been a mixture of successes and failures, struggles and graces, the year beginning on the back of a humongous slip-up, after smooching on ice with my husband Xav left him with a leg broken in three places... Here then, are my top 9 moments that picked me up again:

1. Ken Dodd and that custard pie at the Slapstick Festival up in Bristol (Chapter 128 - click here). My initiation into the world of clowning. A milestone turning 40. You still don't get it? "Those who dance are considered insane by those who can't hear the music." Thank you Nietzche #justsaying.

2. Le Patin Libre and La Soirée (Chapter 127 - click here). Two for one? Possibly a bit cheeky to start bending the rules already, but it was the same night to remember. Funnily enough him indoors with a broken leg wasn't really up for going to see a bunch of phenomenal free-skaters at Somerset House, but my skating partner-in-crime Carolyn was. We met my first ever ice guide, also a talented actress and storyteller, Rosie, who was doing front of house that night and were thrilled and chilled by "Vertical" in equal measure. Walking over Waterloo Bridge afterwards we slipped into the second half of La Soirée just in time to catch Denis Lock's spellbinding new bubble act and bump into Bristol-based Cirque Bijou on a festive jolly for good measure. The show is now on in Leicester Square, and according to Lyn Gardner: "La Soirée continues to be a class act, largely because it keeps its tongue firmly in its cheek and never takes itself too seriously." Click here for her review in full:

3. Gandini Juggling & Akhnaten: what better treat for a circus-loving Mum on Mother's Day (Chapter 133 - click here) than to travel up to the British Library with her 8 year old and see Gandini Juggling, choreographed by José Triguero and set to music from Philip Glass' opera Akhnaten. Bowled away also by the voice of Anthony Roth Costanza, I listened to the CD non-stop and a few weeks later found myself at the ENO on the very last night of the opera with Carolyn (Chapter 136 - click here), not just a skating partner-in-crime. Philip Glass was in the audience too that night, and I inadvertently snapped him in the photo taken surreptitiously of the cast taking a curtain bow. The evening was sublime. I do not say that lightly.

4. The Calder Exhibition at the Tate Modern (Chapter 135 - click here). What can I say? My universe shifted again. Einstein was a fan too. I felt connected. It's all relative. 

5. Zippos: It was Zippos 30th anniversary tour this year. I had caught them earlier at Winter Wonderland (Chapter 118 - click here) at Cirque Beserk (Chapter 131 - click here) and then over in Streatham where I saw the legendary ringmaster Norman Barrett MBE do his wonderful turn with his performing budgies. I used to have a pet budgie called Daffodil. She never did tricks like that! Watching the turns on the wheel of death was the most terrifying experience I've had watching circus - especially when the artist was standing on the outside of the ring, blindfolded, and on stilts. 

Zippos and Cirque Beserk are currently at Winter Wonderland  in Hyde Park

6. Barely Methodical Troupe's "Kin": (See The Circus Diaries - click here). I went to the show with Xav, who loved the humour, the skills, Nikki Rummer holding her own with the boys (and then some), as much as I did. It was funny, it was exciting, and you can watch it here:

A little while later I saw one man show Paradise Lost at Battersea Arts Centre with Ben Duke in a bloody brilliant tower-house of a performance. In the bar afterwards with another circus writing Lucy (Lucy Ribchester, who writes for The List, when not being an award-winning novelist), circus inevitably cropped up in conversation. I excitedly started telling Ben all about this great show Kin that had been on at Circus Fest which he absolutely had to see. Turns out he had already. Being the director and all. I guess there are worse faux pas in life!

7. The Hive: That night at Kin I bumped into Jair Ramirez and, chatting about circus training spaces and my frustration at not being able to find daytime classes, he suggested I come along to Freedom2Fly classes in Hackney Wick. Not the easiest of locations, it takes me a whole day, but the space has saved my sanity. The Hive, where it is based, also runs the odd sell-out cabaret, and a highlight in summer was going there to see a preview of Mimbre Acrobats "If I Would I Could", pictured left (Chapter 143 - click here), that tells the day in the life of an everyday hero and the superhuman effort it takes to overcome everyday obstacles struck a chord. 

8. Giffords Circus: It was a joy to see "The Painted Wagon" head to the Wild West not just once but twice this year. Read about the show here in Kate Kavanagh's review for The Circus Diaries. The first time my daughter and I went straight from stomping and twirling in the sawdust ring with audience & cast in the morning, to the hospital for afternoon visiting hours where Mum had just emerged from her coma the day before. Mum had nearly died barely a week before and her recovery was little short of miraculous.  I arrived to find her with a copy of the The Lady by her bedside, directing me to an article all about Giffords. Always full of surprises and ahead of the game Mum, and I am still in wonder that we will be spending Christmas together. Returning to Giffords, this time without kids but with Hamish and Onni in tow, two of the performers from Ssshhh!, the day before the cabaret at Jacksons Lane (see below), was definitely my guilty pleasure!

9. NoFit State: The arrival of NoFit State in London reminded me of my original dream to become a circus strongwoman, and kickstarted my own training again, and for that I am so very grateful. It was so much fun going behind the scenes interviewing the wonderful Delia Ceruti (Chapter 162 - click here) and then climbing up the scenes in a workshop later (see Chapter 165 - click here). Bumping into aerialist Frances Widow there was another highlight. We have been on Twitter together for a couple of years, meeting through an illustration of hers that I admired and used for one of my most popular posts of 2015 (Chapter 65 - The Circus Strongwoman - click here). NoFit State also gave me a night to remember with one of my oldest friends Jane, where we celebrated the sheer talent on display and partied the night away.

The show Bianco is my top review of the year, see Chapter 164 - click here. If you haven't seen the show yet, you have until 22nd January. Catch it while you can. After that Bianco is no more, and NoFit State will be moving on to their next flagship project for 2018, celebrating the 250th anniversary of the birth of modern circus. 

Of course, my ultimate best nine are the nine utterly terrific performers who agreed to be in Ssshhh!, the cabaret we put on at Jacksons Lane this summer as part of the Postcards Festival. These pictures by Shauna Summers speak volumes where my words fail. It was simply one of those nights to remember, and I am so grateful to Artistic Director Adrian Berry for the trust and confidence he placed in us to let rip.

From left to right:

Michaela O'Connor, Red Sarah, Molly Orange;

Cheryl Teagan, Brett Rosengreen, Hamish Tjeong;

Sean Kempton, Danny Ash, Onni Toivonen.

A huge thanks to those of you who were with us that night, who supported with shout-outs and spread the word. And thank you to all you readers for your interest in the circus scene here. The blog has had over 12,000 hits this month. As a writer that fact brings a warm glow, a sense of being relevant and engaging, and feedback is always welcome. Highlights are listed above, but there are so many more performances and challenges which have made the journey over the past 12 months such an eventful one. 

For all you aerial enthusiasts out there, circus spaces may be shut over Christmas, but you can still keep the exercise ticking over thanks to Paper Doll Militia's competition for exercising aerialists with videos uploaded daily on Facebook. I will be following with interest and am inspired by the accounts already using the hashtag #Fit4TheHolidays over on Instagram. 

If you are looking for that last minute Christmas gift, I cannot recommend highly enough a circus experience afternoon at the National Centre for Circus Artswhich is where it all began for me in Chapter 1 - click here. And please consider supporting Jackson Lane's Christmas Day lunch appeal that reaches out to the elderly in the local community in the spirit of social circus:

Events for your diary over the holidays: Along with Bianco, La Soirée, Cirque Beserk and Zippos, The Mad Hatter's Tea Party at The Roundhouse (See Chapter 55 - click here), check out the two wise men in Two Tongue Theatre's Boys Club (See Chapter 160 - click here), mentored by a third, dark clown Peta Lily (See Chapter 156 on Peta Lily's Chastity Belt ), at Etcetera pub theatre in Camden, 6th (and 7th) January. It's an epiphany! 

Book now for the 40th London International Mime Festival (LIMF) kicking off in January. Top of my list is Thomas Monckton's Only Bones (click here for teaser trailer) and French puppet company Les Antliaclastes' Here Lies Shakespeare (click here for teaser trailer). Also don't miss the phenomenal Alex Walton's in Adrian Berry's poignant From Ibiza to the Norfolk Broads (Chapter 161 - click here) back at Jacksons Lane on 27 February for one night only.

Meanwhile I'll be back in the New Year to get "Smashed" with Gandini Juggling, as a special edition opens the London International Mime Festival on 9th/10th January at the Peacock Theatre, Sadlers Wells. Time now to chill... Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to you all! 

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