arriving at the circus

April 24, 2008

So I have run away to join the circus. A few years ago the buzz at the festival was that some guy from Cirque du Soleil was there to scout for talent. Was this in about 2002/3/4 somewhere there. And Lionel Newton and I were playing The Well Being and maybe Feedback as well. In fact, if I remember correctly, which I seldom do as you will begin to learn through these reminiscences, he came a couple of years in a row. The guy, I mean we soon found out his name was Welby Altidor. And what a gent.


I had heard of Cirque way back in the late eighties early nineties when doing Between the Teeth at the Market when a stage manager called Samantha Philipopoulos lent me and yes, Samantha, I admit to my shame, I have never returned them and the karma is sitting on my shoulder pecking at my pectoral to get to my heart since I already owe you for the work you did then. Not money of course, but just gratitude for your spirit. Anyway Samantha lent me these videos of Archaos whom I had seen in Edinburgh and been wowed. Then she showed me video of Saltimbanco I think and also a documentary on the birth and growth of Cirque. This has been an invaluable teaching aid since then. Anyway having got to Rhodes and taken on the task of trying to act firstly like a senior lecturer and then like an associate professor… what do I profess? I read more about them and then researched more about them and began to teach a course on the notion of new circus and the interaction with contemporary theatre which I had observed at the Edinburgh Festival during 1989/91/94/95. So by the time the buzz was buzzing at the National Arts festival in Grahamstwon it was a loud buzz indeed. We arranged for Welby to get into what ever he wanted but he had already done that and met with us and expressed interest in the work. Then when we, Lionel and I, were touring Canada in 2003? We got a call from Welby; I think we were in Winnipeg at the Prairie Theatre Exchange and they asked if we were interested in auditioning for a show that would be on tour for a few years. We both had commitments at home and so said ‘love to but can’t right now if that’s okay’.


Then in 2005 news came out that Cirque was auditioning in South Africa for physical actors. Only in Cape Town and Joburg. And only by invitation. I received an invitation and flew myself (or did I drive?) to Cape Town and spent the day auditioning at Artscape? With a bunch which was whittled down to Mongi Mtombeni, Jenni Reznek and myself. We spent the afternoon doing dance routines and clown exercises and improvs for them and the camera and were sent away with the news that we had been accepted onto their data base. This meant that should the directors of new shows be looking for actors like us they would view our audition tapes. So all very exciting and particularly the fact that of the six people they accepted, four of them had been trained at Rhodes; Ah well credit wherever we can get it okay…







So here is day three or is it four by now. The arrival was inauspicious with… no wait actually the arrival was organized and prepped to a tee, with all documents absolutely in place and consequently with a good bureaucracy things were smooth with no power attitudes from the officials just efficiency and officialdom that was concerned with that kind of thing. Fabulous to work with, so civilized, what. No pretentions. Anyway then the triumphant exit from the restricted area and plenty of people and plenty of signs but no Cirque du Soleil sign and one trip around the arrivals hall and then another and then nothing. Quick retirement to the info desk and the paging. Then the late arrival of the guy in the hat who is obviously the Cirque guy. The thing was it’s not like I was trying to find a way to announce whom I was employed by, but give me the slightest excuse.. ‘oh yes who am I looking for? Me? I’m looking for Cirque du Soleil. Who??? Cirque du Soleil!!!’ I would be bellowing it over the intercom if I could. ‘Paging the guy Paging the guy from Cirque’. Where are you?  Plenty of laughs and smiles when he arrives. ‘and  I met your son. He’s a funny guy.  So you both clowns?’ ’Yes I tried to discourage him but…’  ‘HA HA HA  hey you’re a funny guy too HAHAHA same sense of humuor.’ Then a drive to the venue through the dingiest part of the town. With the most boring bars. And grey and dirty and damp and ugly and square. And cold and lonely and not warm like home. I am loving being here because every feature of it reminds me of how much I love home. Of what I want to do and where I want to do it. And who with. But that’s gonna be after I finish with this kettle of starfish.


So on arrival at the Cirque apartments, there is Daniel sitting smiling in the foyer waiting to meet me. We walked to the shops and shopped and Daniel paid. And we spent time chatting and gaaning aan in my room until he went to his to read to give me time to unpack. Unpacked cold empty cupboard and no carpets and single bed thin duvet and no warm light of Janet by my side. Fire side. Hearth heart.


Neighbourhood ; concrete industrial flat square grey dirty and bleak. Even though there is snow piled up, its filthy and melting. The season-old refuse and dogshit emerging from the melting masses like spring buds through old snow. … but then isn’t the best thing about this place that it is situated here; the geography of the interface between wealthy and less financially advantaged. In SA would you like Cirque to be in Sandton or Melville? no you would prefer to be in the edges of Soweto or Eldorado park. Or Kempton Park or Rossetannville or Alex.


Then what about a drink at the bar down the road. We went to the local bar together last night and sat uncomfortable through the agonising spilt milk sound of bad boy band karaoke. How I wished I could be one of those people who just watches unselfconsciously and responds even if fake clapping and applauding just to play the game with them without mockery or superior attitude with the sheer charity of a human being. That’s why I like karaoke; great equalizer. Just be there and meet people on their own terms. But no, me too fucking British up tight tight-arsed fear ridden skulking at the bar.


But then it was a healthy son father jaunt down at the local bar what. Called actually a resto-bar. ‘What?’ Says Daniel. I say ‘ Resto like restauro-bar. Karaoke heaven I only realised after a while and the place only filled up, well got three customers, okay eight, and they seemed to be friends of the barmaid and her friend who liked to, who really wanted to, sing in a boy band; ‘so what have you  been doing? Me? I’ve been singing. And ? Oh no, yes some amazing responses. Really? Yeah really positive and now I just have to find an audience. ‘


Few beers later and home to bed. Its seven o’clock here

One Response to “arriving at the circus”

  1. charlotte Says:

    sounds wonderful Andrew it is sooooo exciting! when do yu start rehearsals if that is what you do? and do you make it up or do they tell yuou what to do? He’s my brother – yeah!

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