Observers on ‘The Arrival’ – Week 1

Arrival Rehearsals Week 1. Photo: Hebe Reilly

“The more I watch this process, the more seduced I am by the art of circus. It is simply phenomenal watching the performers practice with their equipment and I find myself asking why are we so enthralled by circus? What is it about the Circus that is so awe-inspiring?

This investigation into the marriage of Circus and Storytelling is brand new, and really exciting. As we come towards the end of week one, I ask myself, will this marriage work – can there be the perfect use of circus skill to advance an emotionally sophisticated story?

“I’m curious also”

Today was an interesting warm up into the collaborative process of creating The Arrival. It was interesting hearing the circus artists describe themselves as “curious”.  I suppose we are all curious – this is a real investigation into the possibilities of mixing styles, disciplines and practices and this afternoon I believe we began to see how this could work – as we create a storm on the deck of a ship.

Three girls sleep in their aerial hoops, swinging gently in the wind, when they are thrown off at the impact of the wave, two artists search for their rope and straps, dangling from above and begin to climb to the sky for safety.  A huge whirlwind in the form of the German Wheel captures one man in its spin and velocity. Seeming out of control, the performer demonstrates a physical skill whilst also capturing the emotional narrative of this storm – and this is what the project is searching for, and perhaps what the artists are curious about.

It is an integration of the circus skills – which are very impressive – and the theatrical power of well told, emotionally sophisticated stories.

I am excited. And I’m curious also. It has made me think about my own practice. How does a successful chorus come together?

This is a new venture – the marriage of great circus skill with a strong, well told story, in a landscape the audience is able to emotionally invest in. And it begs the question: do we emotionally invest in circus? As an artist said, their work is a heightened reality, magical. My heart leaps to see the girl on the Cloud Swing, or the performers climb the Chinese pole with no effort. Is this awe enough? Can it be mixed with theatre which ignites a different appetite in audiences?

This is a voyage of discovery and I heard Kristine ask one of the performers on Monday – what can I give you? She asks again today, in the creation of a form of Jive on the Chinese pole – what can you give me?

I think this is a new conversation in the performance world, and the performers are starting to answer – as one boy cycles through the street, never looking up from the newspaper he is reading or the apple he is eating – a lively and new performance.”

Hebe Reilly – Observer

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