Saturday, 29 July 2017

Chapter 207: A Postcard from Jacksons Lane

Photo credit: Kasitzjay (@kasitzjay on social media)

Back in London this week I have been making the most of Postcards Festival at Jacksons Lane, especially as come September we look set to start sailing round the world and I don't know when we will be back. I have seen so many amazing shows at Jacksons Lane over the past three years that have changed or broadened my perspective, met so many wonderful people and I am incredibly grateful to Artistic Director Ade Berry and his team. In many ways it has been a life-line for my own sanity and energy as a Mum of three doing my best. This week I have been able to sample some of the amazingly eclectic programme over three consecutive nights, and there has been something for the kids too.

Photo credit: Kasitzjay
On Wednesday night my son and I went along to see Simple Cypher's Kieran and Chris, and their friends, bring the house down with their blend of dance and circus schools. We went with a friend of his and his Dad, a self-taught fire-breathing juggler with a sharp eye for timing. The blend of the group's humour and easy-going nature translated into a chilled evening, but at the same time it was super high energy. An awesome DJ made for great vibes - and a superb breakdancing cameo in the encore at the end! - with his music framing sharp dance moves that had robotic elements, muscles popping in all directions, and hands twisting, slicing and weaving in and out. There was lots of fun with the juggling and the play in dynamics between Kieran and Chris. One of my favourite visuals was watching when all the cast held balls around Kieran and passed them round as though tossed in slow-mo.

I could watch the Cyr wheel forever too, mesmerised by the coin-spinning movements of the large heavy hoop of metal ("aka wheel of death Mum" whispered my son as it slammed on the floor at one point). I especially liked the foot hook moves, one outside and one inside the wheel, and the nonchalant one arm hangs. It was great to see National Circus graduates Josh and Tessa again. Last act I'd seen them Tessa had Josh on her shoulders while en pointe in ballet shoes. This time round there was more wicked acrobalance and gender inversions, and a fierce move that saw Josh lifting Tess single-handedly by the roof of her mouth. Respect all round! 

What is true love? How do you find it? How does it feel? How long does it last? The spotlight was on Sean Kempton on Thursday night, for answers in his solo show Stuff. I loved the show already last year (see post on Stuff - click here), and the way Sean weaves in prerecorded interviews exploring the subject with his (then) 6 year old daughter Chloe, Jessica Ladley who is in her 20s, and an octagenerian family friend. It was great to see Stuff home from home at Jacksons Lane, where it had originally started out life. I loved the magic of the props: a book of light, flashing phone, mischievous lamps, all illuminating. 

Stuff is a responsive, dynamic piece in which half the beauty is the way Sean brings the audience into play in a tapestry of connections. The show underlined for me was the notion of real love that can be tender, but can also be this incredibly raw, powerful, act of revolution that blows worlds apart and I think the anarchy of clowning makes such a great bedfellow in terms of conveying that. There was plenty of laughter as rules were broken, nowhere and no-one was safe in the audience. There moments of body-slamming, gut-wrenching brokenness. Sean's was a tour de force performance of unbridled energy and he had the whole tango of love, and a wonderful audience, at his fingertips. Genius clowning.

Then last night, Friday,  my daughter and I went to see juggling legends Bibi and Bichu's life-affirming Circus Abyssynia.  The premise has its origins in Gifford Circus' Moon Songs, which we saw together a couple of years ago, where two boys in Ethiopia dream of running off to an English Circus. Bibi and Bichu have expanded the concept and brought together an evening of vibrant, fearless and utterly astounding circus skills. 

The show started with a video came from Tweedy the clown as the Man in the Moon, and my daughter was delighted as the last time she had come to Jacksons Lane it was to see him in his solo show Lost Property. My 9YO was in awe (as was I!) to see children, Alemayehu (young Bichu) and Ezra (young Bibi), somersault onto an adult's shoulder in a three-high human tower, along with all manner of tumbling, acrobatics and juggling. We loved the serpentine contortionists, dizzying foot juggling and laughed at the classic clowning around.  It was a great evening soaking up the energy and joy of extraordinary talent, and the show-stopping group finale on Chinese pole raised the roof - catch them at Edinburgh Fringe! 

So now here I am back at Jacksons Lane, sitting in the auditorium for the tech run through for circus cabaret Shhh! tonight, which will be high-octane, no holds barred fun. It is a wonderful feeling for everyone to have a sold out house again this year.  The bar is open til 1am and in the festival spirit we will continue into the night celebrating the finale of three weeks of stellar shows and incredible artists. If you are coming tonight, say hi, and if not, watch this space...

Thursday, 27 July 2017

Chapter 206: Breaking news... Shhh!

Jessica Judge Ramirez - (click here)
Photo credit: JB Davies

Counting down to Shhh! at Jacksons Lane on Saturday night and thrilled to finally announce that we have a new addition to the cast, Jessica Judge, who founded Freedom2FlyDA, the aerial school for dancers, with her husband Jair, who is also in the cabaret. Jessica and Jair met in Singapore in 2009 on a cruise ship where Jessica was one of the professional dancers and was so impressed by Jair's aerial acrobatics that she asked him to teach her some tricks. The rest, as they say, is history, and herstory. Training intensively with Jair, Jessica's first aerial performance was in Jair's home country in Colombia, in front of the Colombian president no less, no pressure! Jair and Jess were married in 2014 in Cartagena, and if you watch the circus skills and love in the beautiful wedding video of Mr and Mrs Ramirez (click here), you'll see why they are a match made in heaven. For those of you that saw Jair's solo show Sugarman (see post - click here) at Jacksons Lane in this Postcards Festival you will know that he has a wonderful clowning side. Jessica also has a wicked sense of humour, sending up situations and making the world laugh. Find out for yourself this Saturday night and catch their acrobalance duet which will open the show... 

Shhh! is the final night of Jacksons Lane's three week Postcards Festival which has a Pay What You Decide policy so you can reserve tickets now (while you can!), and pay on the night. A pretty wicked concept!

Jess will be joining these amazing artists (see post - click here - and check out their pages linked below), from top to bottom, left to right:

Sophie Page
Michaela O'

Sean Kempton:

So, come and enjoy Jess & Jair's spectacular duet along with all the magic and mayhem, aerial and acrobatics, Beyoncé and burlesque, cabaret and clowning around of Shhh! on Saturday, 29 July at Jacksons Lane. Book here:

Wednesday, 26 July 2017

Chapter 205: Postcard from London

Lost In Translation Circus, 25 July 2017
Photo: Peter Maclaine
For Circus 250

I was at the physio the other day at St George's Hospital in a follow up appointment for my finger that was dislocated and broken in a freak accident. Freak as in not circus related, as everyone initially assumes. It has thrown a curve ball at my confidence, as much in terms of the possibilities of what can go wrong, as the pain of what has gone wrong. For the past few weeks, as a result, my body language has been screaming out: I'm vulnerable, go ahead and knock me out.

The physio's pragmatic response and strengthening exercises got me out of the doldrums, and then came a further boost: "I went to see some circus at Underbelly on your recommendation Lucy, the last time you were here". What did you see? Did you enjoy yourself? It turned out she had seen the Canadian production "Attrape-Moi" (Catch Me), ironically one of the shows I had been dying to see but hadn't managed to squeeze in. She was blown away by the energy, and the way her face lit up talking about it, recharged me in turn. That's what I love about the effect circus has on people. That evening, inpsired, I signed up for a package of classes at the local gym, and went to my first class this morning. Circuits, kickboxing punching bags - good grief, I'm about to land a broken toe! - squats and press-ups, the full monty. Channelling my inner Betty Bedlam (see also post on Box B*tch and catch at Jacksons Lane this Saturday night click here), the bitch is back! So to speak.

Lost In Translation Circus' Annabel Carberry
On Monday I also heard about the press photo-call for the launch of the Circus250 logo, designed by Sir Peter Blake, with the fantastic Norwich-based Lost In Translation Circus doing phenomenal, crazy circus stunts opposite the Houses of Parliament, just down the road from where Philip Astley set up his first sawdust ring 250 years ago. In 2018 Circus250, thanks to the organisation of writer Dea Birkett, will be celebrating with circus happenings, performances and events indoors and outdoors in Big Tops, theatres, churches (churcus is the term coined by Kate Kavanagh of The Circus Diaries!), museums, festivals and sawdust rings all over the UK and Ireland, and in the specially designated "circus cities" like London and Norwich.

It was an eye-opener. For over an hour the performers repeated stunts again and again, with subtle changes of angle and timing to get just the right moment captured for posterity. Just as my heart-rate adapted to watching the flips in the air over a concrete crashmat, then there were handstands on the wall with a sheer drop to the Thames, and on the back of a precarious bench, that set it in overdrive again. It was easier watching through a lens, and I snapped away on my camera too, for my own circus scrapbook. While I cherish my unofficial snapshots, the morning really brought home the importance of professional photography as a record and testimonial, how effective image (as in the visual) is as an ambassador for performing arts, and how damn photogenic circus is!

Here's how it happened:

Friday, 21 July 2017

Chapter 204: Sam Goodburn is Dumbstruck

All photo credits: Craig Kirkwood
Imagine Adrian Mole pulled Pandora and it's the morning after the night before. He can't believe his luck. Dumbstruck. That is basically the premise for Sam Goodburn's solo show Dumbtruck, only instead of being a spotty nerd, Sam has an endearing, dorky charm. Wanting to make sure he doesn't screw it all up Sam sets about making his still sleeping beauty breakfast, only things don't entirely go to plan... 

From the opener which finds Sam half-undressed creeping around in the girl's floral apartment his character is clearly out of his comfort zone. The next 45 minutes or so pass in a whir of classic slapstick tropes given an innovative modern twist, causing chaos and then further havoc in the attempt to clear it all up. The clowning around would be entertainment itself, but in addition there is a whole series of superb circus tricks and skills propelling the story, whether literally juggling phone-calls from his best mate Brian, and the girl's Mum, as the Nutella Ninja in a novel knife act, or unicycling across a set of beer-bottle panpipes, a lad's own DIY tight-wire, which has to be seen to be believed. 

Sam's skills are self-taught and top-notch, his experience straddling the worlds of both traditional and contemporary circus. I met Sam a couple of years ago unicycling his way across a tightwire when he was with the UK's leading contemporary circus company NoFit State for an open house at Stratford Circus. He had just won Circus Maximus on the Southbank that summer, a competition that seeks out the best in circus talent, and that led to the collaboration with Underbelly to produce Dumbstruck. 

Before that though, Sam had fallen into clowning accidentally (always the best way!) when working as a unicyclist and juggler in the Big Top of Circus Zyair. The clown pulled out and Sam stepped into his oversized shoes with little more than a few hours prep, holed up in MacDonalds, watching back to back videos of classic clown acts for inspiration. Maybe the location brought its own karma, as funnily enough the son of the legendary Coco the Clown (a friend surprised me recently with a first edition of his autobiography - a fascinating read), was the model for Ronald MacDonald. Anyway, Sam improvised four gags on the back of  his research and honed them through trial and error. 

Since then Sam has been mentored and directed by the New Zealand-based renowned clown Fraser Hooper, who also directed Boy With Tape on His Face on Australian tour. Sam travelled out to Wellington for a month earlier this year for workshops with him and to develop the show, and Hooper, over in the UK on tour at the moment, was at Jacksons Lane for the premiere of Dumbstruck earlier this month. As well as the skills and the clowning, credit to Sam that evening for his choice of audience participation and the wonderful moments that generated. I remember another clown (Sean Kempton!) telling me that a great performer will be able to take the audience anywhere. And Sam does. 

Check out The Widow Stanton interview with Sam: 

Sam is takes Dumbstruck to Splatch Cardiff on Sunday 23, July. Check out the Facebook events page: (click here)

Sam will be at the Edinburgh Fringe with Dumbstruck for 3 weeks. 3-13 and 15-27 August:

And, London!, you have one more chance to catch Sam when he appears in Shhh! cabaret on Saturday 29 July at 8pm, the festival finale for the Postcards Festival at Jacksons Lane. 
For more information about the evening: see post (click here)

Thursday, 20 July 2017

Chapter 203: 13 Years of NoFit State in Pictures

Augusts Dakteris with cast of Bianco
All photo credits: Mark Robson (

"Photography is a way of feeling, of touching, of loving. What you have caught on film is captured forever... it remembers little things, long after you have forgotten everything."  Aaron Siskind

Daiki Izumida from Parklife in Stockton-on-Tees
With the 250th anniversary round the corner of Philip Astley "the father of modern circus", there has been much talk, and many exciting plans put into action, to commemorate that fact, all brought together under the umbrella of Circus250. One of the highlights of the year will be a flagship show by NoFit State. The company has had an extraordinary trajectory, from its roots in the friendship of five friends in a juggling group that evolved organically from a university society in the early 80s (I was in my university's juggling society, we obviously dropped a few balls!), into the UK's leading contemporary circus company. 

Mark Robson first came into contact with the company in 1995 when he blew up two cars for the finale of their show Autogeddon, joining their board in 2002 and taking pictures from then on which provide a stunning photographic testimonial both to the company and Astley's legacy. Recently Mark brought a number of photos together in a book, really meant as a family album, called "Let's Do It Again", as a leaving present and thank you to Ali Williams, one of the founders of the company. That provided the foundation, and prototype, for Mark to realise his dream of putting together professionally a coffee table book that memorialises and immortalises all the magic and wonder of shows over the past thirteen years from Immortal to Block. 

Mark's Kickstarter now is up and running. NoFit State is a company close to my heart. Bianco is the show that kickstarted my own desire to run away to the circus, and to see the show again in a Big Top on the Southbank at Christmas was a real joy. I loved the colour and the crazy of Noodles, and thanks to a NoFit State outdoor Open House at Stratford Circus a couple of years ago I first met Mark, as well as Sam Goodburn, who will be in a show I'm curating at Jacksons Lane next week (Shhh!). I admire the ethos behind NoFit State's social engagement along with the fact that they make shows of epic proportions and talent that inspire dreaming and fire the imagination.

I value and support this project for its subject matter but also, as a collector of images, simply for the beauty of the photographs themselves. But it will only become a reality if fully funded by 30 July, so please spread the word and check out the Kickstarter campaign:

Anna Sandreuter in Mundo Paralelo 

Check out The Circus Diaries informative interview with Mark Robson about theKickstarter: click here.

31 July: CONGRATULATIONS to Mark Robson - the project is now fully funded thanks to everyone who supported and spread the word! Really looking forward to seeing my copy which will be coming out in Autumn.  #circuscommunity #circusgoal #circuslove

Wednesday, 19 July 2017

Chapter 202: Reflections from Sardinia #CircusEverywhere

Sardinia took me by surprise. A sailing holiday there with my husband's sister and her friends had been booked long in advance, and as the way events turned out, with my husband leaving his job and plans to sail round the world, the timing seemed all the more fortuitous.

But in the space of one morning and a freak accident that left my ring finger broken, dislocated and with the ligaments torn, I had gone from feeling invincible and proud, to utterly vulnerable. It was a downward spiral. One hand out of action, my balance was worse, I began to trip more, always catching myself just, but even so, terrified of incurring more damage. Not going on the boat though was not an option. 

I grabbed a tome from my circus shelf for company. A talisman, if you will. Nell Stroud's "Josser", the story of her early adventures and way into circus, all the more fascinating because we know now of the success of her own circus, Giffords. I was hoping to read on the Easyjet flight over, but I ended up sitting next to a gentleman from the Lebanon who delighted seeing my children and was soon showing my pictures of his own children and grandchildren. Casual and trendy, he looked barely older than me, which was entirely possible given he was barely twenty when he married. One of the air stewardesses addressed him in his mother tongue as she served his coffee. I picked out the word "habibi" - a word that features heavily in my funked up Arabesque CD. He turned to me. "She knows my language. She said Thanks, darling. That's what habibi means you know, darling. In the Lebanon we use it far too much, we use it for anyone really, and it has lost all meaning. It's sad, really." 

We landed in Northern Sardinia. That was the first surprise. I thought we were going to the South. The next was that we were not going directly to the marina, but having a couple of nights first in an AirBnB in the hills. It wasn't the easiest place to find. We almost overshot the turning next to a disused mine. The russet dust, arid tracks and glaring mountains made me think of Arizona, prospectors and Spaghetti Westerns. There were a few filmed in Sardinia actually. 
We were welcomed to our AirBnB by a crazy black lab puppy called Argo, a lizard basking on a rock, a tortoise politely refusing a lettuce leaf, and a braying clown of a donkey. My family and other animals. Gerald Durrell eat your heart out. Circus everywhere! That evening our hostess, Marilena, directed us to a local village for supper. Convinced we were in the middle of nowhere, I was somewhat disappointed to discover a picture postcard perfect village decorated with Ralph Lauren tourists. Still, I embraced the romantic, candlelit supper en famille and soaked up the sheer joy of being on holiday together. 

Afterwards we wandered through the square where a latter day troubadour strumming his guitar was finishing up and a red square carpet framed with yellow was being set out, a hoop on a perch, for tumbling through, lay alongside. The circus! Can we stay and watch? Come on! At least for the time it takes to eat a gelato...?! My youngest plonked herself down with all the other children. A young man was setting up the props, while his partner pulled on black and white stripey tights and started to whiten her face with paint. I was struck by the thought that this is how La Strada (see recent post - click here) would have turned out if Gelsomina had indeed run away with The Fool, Il Matto. The music went on forever. The audience grew restless. The performers had a young son, overtired, who clung on to his mama, and was not letting her go. My youngest jumped up, and ran over, crouching down next to him, trying to cheer him up (good for her!), but to no avail. The announcement then came that, effectively, the show could not go on tonight due to a technical hitch. I really felt for them all. 

The following day we went to see a fascinating exhibition on the Naufraghe, the Bronze Age inhabitants of Sardinia (1600-1100 BC), who built over ten thousand round turret structures all over the island. So interested, in fact, the curator came over at the end and asked me to record a video for the museum. My nine year old loved the fact that their women priests had equal standing with the men, and the virtual reality experience began with an androgynous mystical figure outside time and space, that had a serpent weaving round their ankle. A healer, I thought, the image echoing the Hypocratic symbol of the Rod of Asclepius. Or Hercules. A veritable snake charmer. Again, circus everywhere.

On the boat, a 39 foot catamaran called "Glory Days", I finally read Josser cover to cover. I loved the literary quotes Nell used to begin each chapter, and her elegiac insight into a community and the way of life that is on the brink. Here is a woman that knows and loves her horses deeply, who through hard graft and commitment built up her dreams. It was an inspiring and entertaining read, and I enjoyed that aha! moment as Tweedy the Clown made a brief appearance. Nell's writing brought to life the legacy of Philip Astley and the equestrian heritage in traditional circus that I probably wouldn't have given a second thought to had it not been Astley's 250th anniversary next year.

"Un giorno senza sorriso è un giorno perso"
Charlie Chaplin at CharlieBar, Isola Madalena
The rest of the holiday was a revelation of hidden coves, secret beaches and learning curves. Open hatches, lethal gangplanks to challenge the most hardy of equilibrists (I saw three people come a cropper) and tilting teerboard decks on bouncy seas were liabilities waiting to happen. Ironically it was the mundane tasks  - bringing in the laundry, doing the washing up, opening a can of olives - that caught me off guard and were a real pain. I discovered though, to my joy, that if I took off my splint and kept my arm raised in a royal salute, I could still swim and snorkel, and the sea is a great healer. Snakes not included. 

Laughter is also the best medicine, as we discovered the importance of time onshore to keep our sense of perspective and humour. It was providential then to find ourselves on the island of Madalena, taking refuge in the Chaplin-inspired Charlie Bar. I will never forget the wonderful moment when my son's mocktail turned up and we discovered "The Curious Dolphin" lived up to its name. A simple pleasure that really had the wow giggle factor. È vero: A day without laughter is a day wasted. That's all folks!   

Thursday, 6 July 2017

Chapter 201: Postcards Festival Finale - SHHH!

"Acclaimed circus blogger Lucy Loves Circus returns to Postcards with a specially curated night of spectacle and surprise. From burlesque to boxing: expect nothing but the unexpected from this festival finale." Jacksons Lane

SHHH! is back this year with our fabulous MCs and co-creators, Cirque de Soleil clowns Sean Kempton and Michaela O'ConnorSean’s solo show Stuff is part of Postcards Festival this year and Michaela, also a trapeze artist extraordinaire, created the stunning triples trapeze show HattieWe have a whole new cast this year and a terrific line-up, so, introducing our kooky, oddball, playful circus family, drum roll please...

Jair Ramirez is well-known as a leading straps aerialist from Circolombia, winner of the Judge's Award Circus Maximus in 2016He is also something of a clown, as you will find out in Sugarman on 13 July (see previous post), and an all-rounder with a circus skill that I find particularly terrifying to watch.

I met Sam Goodburn a couple of years ago down an alleyway round the corner from Stratford Circus a couple of years ago, casually unicycling on a tightwire while juggling. He was winner of the Audience Award for Circus Maximus in 2016,  which has led to the development of his solo show Dumbstruck which has just had its debut and heads to the Edinburgh Fringe this summer. 

Sophie Page Hall and Will Davis are record-breaking, prize-winning aerialists: Sophie took part in a Guiness world-record breaking challenge on aerial silks and Will won the UK competition Circus Maximus in 2014 and UK Aerial Performance Championship in 2016. As partners in rope they have performed in festivals all over the UK and Europe, and most recently in Hangwire at Jacksons Lane last weekend.

Michael Standen is an extraordinary handbalancer who has a wicked cabaret act in what has been described "a rather risqué number where he proceeds to show off jaw-dropping feats of gymnastic ability." (Narcmagazine)

Bringing her own touch of magic to the evening is Soulnia, who I met while training in aerial at Freedom2Fly. Soulnia is a Spanish magician - the eagle-eyed may recognise her from the sleight of hand in the latest Rimmel advert - and professional dancer for the likes of Pharrell Williams and Rihanna and Jax Jones. High energy and lots of fun, you won't believe your eyes, but that's half the fun...

Finally, promising a knock-out performance we have strongwoman Betty Bedlam who I met at a Box Bitch! night at a gym in Fulham (see post - click here), where she taught us to swing our hips to deliver a belter of a blow as much as a shimmy.  As well as a burlesque dancer, Betty is a boxer and you can see for yourself at Wandsworth Civic Suite on Saturday 15 July. 

And if that's not enough to leave you punchdrunk, not only have Jacksons Lane extended the festival, they have extended the late night bar licence and we now have it until 1am people! So come and join us: SHHH! Saturday,  29 July, 8pm and book your tickets here:

Wednesday, 5 July 2017

Chapter 200: Postcards Festival at Jacksons Lane

Hallelujah it's Legs Akimbo!(Photo: Hannah Nash)

Postcards Festival 2017 kicks off at Jacksons Lane next Tuesday (11 July), extended this year to three weeks of live performance and dead funny cabaret, circus and comedy. Expect mash-ups between genres and gender, nudity and explicitly adult content in some shows and others that are family friendly. 

Two Tongue Theatre's Sharlit Deyzac 
Along with several artists in Postcards Festival, I went along yesterday to the in-house presentation to the Jacksons Lane board to hear more about the line-up, as well as talk about the circus cabaret I'm curating - Shhh! Adrian Berry, Artistic Director, took the floor. This is his 15th season presentation, the seventh year of Postcards, and there was lots to celebrate. The idea for Postcards came about when Ade found that there were a number of bite-sized pieces of performance around that deserved a platform, but were not full-length, and the evenings are a series of snapshots into the cutting edge of performance art, comprising solo shows, double-bills and an eclectic variety. The evening is Pay what you decide, and I love the ethos of accessibility behind that, so book now and contribute on the night.


Circus Abyssinia
The two shows I would definitely take my kids to see are Circus Abyssinia  and Morgan & West's Parlour Tricks. 

Circus Abyssinia comprises acrobats from the Ethiopian circus school set up by the phenomenal Bibi and Bichu, beloved of Giffords Circus and Gandini Juggling, who I have seen perform both in a Big Top and on stage at the English National Opera (click here). This show is an semi-autobiographical story of two young boys who dream of running of to the circus, as featured in the Giffords show Moon Songs (click here). Astonishing physical skills, extraordinary. Morgan & West are a duo of time-travelling magicians who serve up slick, jaw-dropping stunts with debonair flair.  They have fooled Penn & Teller, and that's enough for me.


George Orange (Photo: Mark Robson)
Sharlit Deyzac, one half of Two Tongue Theatre talked about  Boys Club, their revolutionary drag king show. Mentored and directed by dark clown Peta Lily (see post - click here), I have seen their show twice now, encore!, but won't share the link to the review here for the spoiler alert. Funny, feisty and no holds barred.
Sean Kempton
Cirque de Soleil maestro clown Sean Kempton brings Stuff to Jacksons Lane after a knock-out tour over the past year. I saw it premiere at the London ClownFest last year (see post - click here). Through mime, dance and some gently brilliant audience improv, Sean takes us on a journey of love in all its absurdity and sheer joy. 

Great to hear George Orange is bringing his show First Lady to the festival, charting the true story of his relationship, falling for the man who ran for president... in a dress. I've seen George several times in Crashmat Collective and with the Mary Bijou Cabaret, and most recently at a work in progress at The Roundhouse. He has a deliciously wicked sense of humour, a smooth, genuine charm, and is a true raconteur.

Sarah Blanc with Jason Donovan

I saw Sarah Blanc last year in Flappers cabaret last year and so pleased she is back with a solo show It started with Jason Donovan. As someone who watched the first ever episode of Neighbours, this is especially for me, quite frankly. As well as being naturally hilarious, Blanc is also an amazing dancer, choreographing Alula's Hyena (click here) in the early days, so expect physical comedy on a par with spoken word.


Tanter (Andreas Bergman)
From Blanc's "banter dance at its finest" to Tanter circus bringing Vixen to the festival in a London premiere. I have been following this company with interest on Instagram and social media for a couple of years now. Graduates from Stockholm circus school of DOCH, they pick apart female stereotypes in an innovative way through stellar skills in trapeze, rope and slackline, are very funny, and a entertaining jazz song about a uterus has to be a first.

Living Room Circus
It was great to hear from Living Room Circus,
who are an experimental company formed of National Centre for Circus Arts graduates. They bring circus to all sorts of unusual spaces and will explore every nook and cranny of Jacksons Lane in unexpected ways in The Penguin and I. Surreally talented, an immersive production, in many ways it will be like a circus blind date. 

Dizzy O'Dare
Cypher Stories is an evening curated by Kieran Warner and Chris Thomas (see post) melding hip hop, Cyr wheel and acrobatics. It will be high energy with awesome dance as much as circus skills on display.

Tightwire can potentially be a limiting discipline to have an entire show built round it, but it is possible as Dizzy O'Dare show in the beautiful show Rise (which I saw in its R&D stage - click here) exploring life and love with striking images, comedy, live music and tenderness. Double bill: Jair Ramirez and Laura Murphy. Jair's show Sugarman premiered at The Place in January (see post - click here), and is one man's struggle to escape the daily grind. Jair is well-known as a superb aerialist, but here you will also see his clown emerge and it's a beautiful show. Laura Murphy has an an "awkward" muscly, female body which she interrogates, as well as the space it occupies, in her exploratory show Contra.


Sadie Sinner (Photo: Lena Lenman)
With the image of Postcards poster girl Sadie Sinner from The Cocoa Butter Speakeasy all over social media and on tube posters, I was looking forward to seeing her in action. Even watching just a snippet of queer black female cabaret on a television screen, albeit on stage, on a Tuesday afternoon, had the Friday night vibes going. Soak in the cocoa butter jam of fierce skills, music and voices of performers of colour out and proud, and let them rub you up the right way.

If you're looking more for Sunday worship, what better place for some Pentecostal mojo that the ecclesiastical architecture of the former church that is Jacksons Lane? Fresh from Glastonbury Legs Akimbo bring Oh My God! It's The Church with a live band, praise the lord, and are determined to get the party started. Playfully sacrilegious, their website says it all.

The Late Night Shop (Photo: Sin Bozkurt)
Billed as sex clowns you might be forgiven for thinking that The Late Night Shop cabaret is more red lights of Amsterdam than theatre festival, but it's less cock and more Le Coq, from where the artists all graduated. With a DJ on stage, expect grotesquely funny non-verbal clowning around. Hocus Pocus Theatre bring the world of a sleazy speakeasy to Jacksons Lane in Guilty Party with dress code of "uninhibited prohibition" and live music until midnight.

And what of the festival finale Shhh! on 29 July? It will have artists from the worlds of circus, burlesque, cabaret and just a touch of magic.  Post to follow, watch this space...

To book tickets and for more information: (click here)

Monday, 3 July 2017

Chapter 199: "La Strada" at The Other Palace

All production photo credits: Robert Day

"This is an old story... this is a new story... and it starts with the sea... listen to the waves."*

Audrey Brisson - Gelsomina
A tide of bodies leant to the right, then to the left. An assortment of nautical ropes hung against a blue lit backdrop. One of them was a noose. I was at The Other Palace to see the musical adaptation of Fellini's film La Strada (The Road) that came highly recommended by a friend who had seen it the week before. Having not (yet!) seen the film, the moment I saw the trailer I fell for the live music and notes of circus. The story follows a young girl, Gelsomina, an innocent in every sense, who grows up by the sea and is sold by her mother for 10,000 lire to a travelling player Zampanò, a charismatic, angry strongman. They end up in a circus where she meets The Fool, a gentle soul, yet also, as clown, a natural agent provocateur.

Sofie Lybäck & Tatiana Santini
I loved the set that transitioned from the nautical to a Big Top rigged like three large sails with a mast for a king pole. The cast was astonishing, comprising a musical ensemble cum acrobats cum actors. Tragedy was foreshadowed in certain faces, painted pale with red shadows under their eyes, giving them a spectral hue. They were ghosts of circus for me, something uncannily familiar about them. The phenomenal female lead who plays Gelsomina had the voice of an angel, and physically reminded me of circus handbalancer and acrobat Tamzen Moulding**. Later I learned that Audrey Brisson is a bonafide circus acrobat as well as vocalist, playing the young girl Zoé in Cirque de Soleil's Quidam on tour. Quidam is the only Cirque show I have seen, both at the Albert Hall and via a video link thanks to Sean Kempton, the clown in the last ever performance. I was also interested to learn that Audrey's father is Canadian composer Benoit Jutras, who was Cirque's musical director and composed many scores. Gelsomina was played originally by Giulietta Masina, dubbed a female Chaplin, and in her baggy oversized suit and bowler had that Zamponò makes her wear to announce his acts, Brisson was very much the vagabond clown. She had a mischief and a wonder that made the heart lift and tear at the same time, embodying Fellini's vision that "all life is beautiful, for all its tragedy and suffering." 

Bart Soroczynski as The Fool, and cast
Stuart Goodwin's Zampanò bore a striking resemblance to Terry O'Quinn's enigmatic John Locke in the US series Lost, and channelled a terrific anger and strength, by turns menacing and lost himself. I loved the clowning around by Il Matto/The Fool (Bart Soroczynski), Zampanò's nemesis, who had the rangey physique and equilibristics talent of Ellis Grover and Sam Goodburn***. When he stated that he wouldn't be long for this world due to the nature of his job, I thought of all the crazy fools I know taking incredible risks and my heart lurched. As The Fool gave an impression of a tightwire act, with wings on his back, there was a touch of Fevvers in Angela Carter's Nights At The Circus. Soroczynski's actual circus skills impressed as well, both on ladder stilts and again when he played accordion on the unicycle. I also enjoyed the juggling of languages as he addressed Gelsomina in a melée of Spanish, German, French and Italian. The Big Top is a place where the world comes together in one language after all. But it was the touching tenderness with which he sketched out and encouraged Gelsomina's potential, and the light that shone in Gelsomina in turn, that really hit home.

There was a fabulous Carmenesque turn from cabaret singer Tatiana Santini, and the pragmatic resignation of so many widows brought to their knees in post-war Italy eloquently captured by Sofie Lybäck in various incarnations, while Teowa Vuong on violin was a virtuoso. All the ensemble had verve and flair, and it really was a stellar, Felliniesque fablesque production. If you are not a musical fan don't be put off. There are a number of innovative, contemporary musicals out there that capture and convey emotions without the jazz hands, and this is one of them. La Strada runs until 8 July at The Other Palace, see the video trailer below:

The circus consultant on the production of La Strada was Gwen Hales, who has worked as aerial director with La Strada director Sally Cookson on previous productions Peter Pan and Hetty Feather. Other credits include directing CirqOn the Seam's Betwixt and Between and performing/co-creating Pirates of the Carabina's Flown and as consultant on Tobacco Factory Theatre's Sinbad. 


*My impression of the opening lines.

** Tamzen Moulding @invertedco is currently working on a great project The Elusive Circus which I saw in R&D a while back, using The Night Circus as its touchstone. 

*** I first saw Ellis Grover traversing a guiding line on a Big Top at the Edinburgh Festival. He has performed with NoFit State and Pirates of the Carabina, has a great vlog and most recently was at Imagine Luton doing a double-chair stacking tilting trick on a pole that defies the law of gravity, again. 

I met Sam Goodburn at Stratford Circus when he was unicycling across a tightwire for NoFit State. Sam premieres his solo show Dumbstruck, with a good deal of clowning around, at Jacksons Lane tonight (3 July), 7.30pm.


While the production evoked the neo-realism of 1950s Italian cinema, it was rather a surreal afternoon for me. Having spent the morning in A&E with a dislocated finger having my wedding rings sawn off, I thought I must be high on painkillers and seeing things when I bumped into Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber not once, but twice, in the corridor in the interval... I learned later that The Other Palace - so named I assumed as it is opposite Buckingham Palace, but apparently not! - is his project sponsoring a new wave of musical theatre. Even curiouser, it turned out I had last been there as a child when it was The Westminster Theatre, watching my brother on stage, part of a musical theatre company. Mummy's Boy (Oedipus Rex!) is the one that springs to mind.

The juxtaposition of sea and circus in La Strada at The Other Palace struck me as something of a circus zeitgeist given recent posts reporting back on festivals Greenwich and Worthing, and thinking of the Bristol HarbourFest happening too.