Chivaree Circus’s show, CRASH is a love story with thrilling acrobatics, aerial dance and gothic balletic pieces to an electronic score. Its creative producer, Edward Gosling speaks to us about the show, which shall be showing at Clapham Common’s Winterville Festival this year, and discusses his love for the circus, the inspiration behind CRASH and why the circus genre is becoming more popular.
What is CRASH about?
CRASH is a reimagining of the French ballet La Sylphide. It tells the story of a young man enchanted into the woodlands by a fantastical creature called a Sylph (a kind of fairy). This may sound lighthearted and gentle, but we’re inverting some of the roles. It’s sex and death, reality crumbling away to fantasy. We’re asking what is real? Who is the villain? Who is the hunter and who is the prey? Our work explores troupes of femininity, upending them and asking audiences to see the characters as a whole, flawed and human. CRASH unfolds through the powerful dynamic circus, big visual metaphors and live music that mixes electronic elements and haunting vocals.
First time at the Winterville Festival? What kind of things should one expect at Winterville?
It’s our first time at the festival so we’re looking forward to finding out!! But the team there are fantastic and there are some cool experiences to check out, great food, a pop-up cinema and a diverse mixture of shows. CRASH is quite different from the rest of the programming, so hopefully it will attract a crowd who are up for something challenging and exciting.
Do you live and breathe Circus, or is this your first time working with Circus performers?
I’ve been working in the circus for 13 years, since I was 18 and Chivaree was founded by myself and Artistic Director Laurane Marchive nearly 7 years ago. We work with up to 200 circus performers a year on a range of projects across London, the UK, Europe and the Middle-East. Our last show Becoming Shades was a dark immersive circus show that ran for two months at the start of 2018 – it won an award for innovation and is currently nominated for an Off West End Award for the music. So, haha yes, I think it’s fair to say we live and breathe circus. When we aren’t working on projects we see a lot of shows to check in with other companies and see what they are making. London has a fantastic range of companies coming here with new ideas. We are based here so we get a choice of some of the very best performers in the world to work with.
Why do you think the circus is becoming popular in theatre today?
Throughout my career, I have seen a continual rise in interest in circus as an art-form. It’s changed immensely. Shows that would have been avant-garde a decade ago have moved the mainstream to include them. We see circus more in all sorts of forms, television, films, adverts and experiences. For me, there is an undeniable attraction to the physical reality of circus. As people’s lives become more dominated by digital experiences (and for the record, I love some trashy films and would be devastated by being separated from my computer) circus stands in stark contrast. There are no illusions, performers show you a live analogue experience in a digital world. If they slip and fall they could be injured or killed. The risk, the reality, the impossibility of circus is important. If we can give audiences a moment of wonder, a gasp, as they lose themselves in the moment of a great performance then I think we have succeeded.
What inspired you to direct/create this production of CRASH?
Laurane and I have been playing around with ideas for this for a year or so. Inspiration comes from so many places and we talk about a hundred times every day about different ideas so it’s hard to separate them out this far into the project. We wanted to create something with magic and chaos as a primal force, that upended established female roles. We were also hugely excited about making a show in the round for a traditional spiegeltent (which translates to: mirror tent) so mirrors and reflections are a big part of the show. Some of the ideas come from classical sources, others are more contemporary. A big reference point for us is another ballet Le Jeune Homme et la Mort. One of the central characters is really inspired by a series of English and northern European folktales. The costumes are created using laser-cut neoprene, similarly, the soundtrack uses very modern sounds. So really we’re drawing ideas from all over the place, and we hope that the sum will be more than the individual parts.
What’s it like working with Chivaree Circus?
I co-founded Chivaree at the beginning of 2012. We spent a few years trying different things, working out who we are and what we really wanted to do, plus learning our craft as producers. It’s been amazing to watch it grow and develop to where we are now. Some days it’s an intense ride that you wish you could get off and take a break from, other days I’m full of happiness getting to work with such a great group of people on exciting projects. You have to try and take moments to enjoy the realisation of dreams you had years earlier that are now coming to fruition. This year we have had some huge successes, selling out our two month run of Becoming Shades and creating a show for award-winning producer Jon Hopkins which is now touring the world. When people come and tell us, often months later, that seeing one of our shows has inspired them to start learning aerial silks, or that they came to see the show several times and took friends and family it makes me feel like this is the best job in the world.
What’s your experience in theatre? How did you know theatre/creative/producing was your dream job?
It’s all been a bit of a happy accident. A little luck and a lot of work. I saw an incredible circus show when I was younger (probably about 8 years old) and that experience was one of the most powerful I’d ever had. I remembered it for years and I knew that was something I wanted to be a part of. I met Laurane in 2010 and we wanted to create something together. That partnership has shaped my life, then in 2016, we started working with the other producer Ilai Szpiezak from Upstage Creative who brings a totally different energy and set of skills and knowledge to us. For me, my experience has been overwhelmingly influenced by the people I’ve met and the collaborations I’ve been part of.
What advice would you give to anyone who wanted to get into the circus/theatre industry?
It’s an amazing industry to be part of, but it’s a hard one. We pay everyone who works for us a decent wage and we work hard to make sure people are always paid promptly. But there are lots of badly paid jobs, producers trying to push wages down and not working very professionally. I think it’s much harder for actors, dancers and musicians than circus performers. There are much less of us, so performers tend to all know each other and it’s a small scene so standards are held up much higher. It’s certainly not the easiest road to go down, but if you’re okay with working hard it is a wonderful world to be part of. Find good people and try things out, it’s the only way to learn.
Chivaree Circus and Upstage Creative present CRASH which will be showing at Winterville, Clapham Common on 28 and 29 November and 12, 13, 19 20 and 22 December 2018. For more information and to book tickets, click here.