It is August, and we have just started acting classes for Crisis clients who might like to perform in the production of Sawdust. There is a buzz in the room as we sit down and start to read the script aloud. The script is so rich with potential; there are so many layers to explore, dissect and play with.
People hold a special place in their hearts for the circus. The concept of running away with a troupe of performers to play the world has captivated so many of us. What would it be like to travel with your own circus family, touring from place to place, setting up camp in a new town or village every week, and performing to packed out audiences in the big top every night?
Well I am sure the reality is not always as romantic as one might dream. Certainly for Kristoff’s Viva Vintage Circus, the cracks are showing. There is very little money left. Costumes and set have been patched up so many times that they have patched the patches. They have tried to reinvent themselves again and again; this time as a “vintage” circus, but how much longer will this trend for “vintage” last?
Ends are starting to fray, and temperaments are frazzled. But still the performers are dedicated to their art. Hamish continues to put his body through hell every night, to entertain audiences by eating obscenely metallic items, before regurgitating them in the privacy of his caravan, because he is an artist, and that is what he does. What else do these performers know? What else could they do, if the circus folds? Who else would employ them, and who would they be if there wasn’t any circus to call home?
This is a question that torments many an artist, and this question of identity is something that many of Kristoff’s company grapple with; whether it is being able to separate themselves from their act, and be accepted as a person in their own right, or learning to live with the reality that their dream of stardom hasn’t quite delivered.
In a time of cuts and austerity in the arts, as well as in so many areas of society, this question of identity is even more pertinent. And when your place of work is also your home, and your family, well, then what? Should you be forced to work for free to be able to hold on to your sense of self, and even a roof over your head…?
I can see that we are going to have so many interesting conversations over the coming months. And a lot to work with in order to bring you our own little circus!
Sawdust runs 11 – 14 October, 7.30pm. Tickets are £12/£10. Click here or ring 01865 263990.