another other day on planet circus

May 8, 2008

Ok yesterday. Well last night. Klown cabaret. Some really brilliant clowns and some really not. Mr Smythe really made laugh until he just kept the monkey suit through the scene change exchanges. Reminds one how difficult clowning is and how much it relies on simplicity. But then two Russian clowns who have been working in Germany for a while hit the stage. They tell two stories; one about two men; one with a medal that the other one wants and can’t get so he finds something amazingly funny on the pages he opens with his two cupped hands like a secret. Each time he sees it it’s funnier. And soon the medal guy wants it. And is eventually persuaded to part with his medal in exchange but his hands don’t work until almost persuaded that they do by the other clown. Who works hard to convince him of the validity of the value there. Medal guy still can’t see in his cupped hands. And the other scene they wash a pair of underpants in a bucket to epic music and gestural style. The nobility and reverence of tragic, no ritual, celebratory sequence of action on this mundane activity. Pomp and ceremony applied to mundanity and every day overtly functional activities. Every one has to wash their underpants. Whole ritual bucket soap hanging line and wind and finished product.  And exeunt.


One woman (clown from Varekai) (absolutely brilliant) plays an aspiring actress and calls up a member of the audience who can read. Casts them as the other actor in her duologue. She has cue-cards hidden all over her body in fantastically concealed and beautifully selected positions on her body. The visual clowning of a man reading notes stuck to a woman’s body has all the nervous energy required for some hysterical physical comedy. As well as providing a three dimensional active metaphor of the male gaze reading the messages concealed on unexpected places that he has to find on different places on her body.  Very funny. The show includes lots of sending up mimes. Stuck in a box kak.  Two musicians. Clowns. Females. Brilliant musicians with voices like angels and comic timing to match steal the show. No, actually the Russians from Germany did that.


Some fantastic skills. Vocality, balance, prat-falls etc but the simplicity of the very good guys make them stand out. Mark Henri took us there. Me and David. Dan stayed home and worked. David from Los Angeles. A gent. Shame, it was very generous of Mark Henri to fetch us and take us there. And he gave us such a journey. We went, with few minutes to spare, to the wrong venue which we discovered as we entered a sort of music hall and he says ‘no it’s in the swimming pool.’ And we go. He asks another; ‘yes it over there’. Then we can’t find it driving through unfamiliar Montreal streets. We stop so he can ask again. He is full of great stories about his work and Cirque, has a really positive energy about him in nearly all responses to artistic endeavour. And Yves also from casting. The upper gallery where we sit has Gilles St Croix the other creator of Cirque sitting two tables away as well as the director of the Red Violin who is directing the next Cirque show. And Mark Henri spends a long time familiarizing us with who is who and details of the context. With generosity.



And so to the next day.


How did it start? Woke up round six. Dry nose swollen sinus.  Drink of water and saline solution up each nostril and things look a lot better. Cereal. Not enough fibre. Well they taste very nice but they certainly aren’t bran flakes. If you know what I mean. No wireless connection in the room. Down to the internet access. Send some mails tried to get Janet; no answer. Very little time because heading for the Studio B. There to warm up and work the baton a little. Get a bit of a sweat up. Worked out new toy for the baton; standing it up freely and dancing around it letting it fall but not hit the ground, catching it at the last minute and then, with minimal contact time with the hand, float back up to vertical then falling somewhere else. Eventually get to question Rodrigue a bit on the role and then just as we get the music going to do the first march and in comes Dominique. He’s great and makes fantastic sense as a director. Speaks lucidly and with clarity about conceptual and practical physically realized events and of inner lives of characters and their journeys. And he also apparently has amazing control of focus. But he talks a lot and often repeats himself. He could afford to find more confidence in his vision so that he doesn’t need to repeat it. So by the time he left, after spending the time telling us how much he insists that I have time to work with Rodrigue, we have only a few minutes left. Anyway it was a very valuable treat to have time talking to and asking questions about character from the director. As well as having time to learn the physical script from the creator. So we have time to do the opening walks two or three times. Rodrigue is beautiful. Clear and physically committed. And with a rich emotional text clearly expressed through distilled crafted stylised gesture but reflecting a reality and evoking a real emotional presence.

Then a photo call in the passage with Daniel and Joel one of the other Nowhere Men. For the souvenir programme.

 Then time for a cup of coffee. Costume fitting in ten minutes. Decaf. Long time to find the costume department before fitting of the waistcoat for the stilt scene. Jacket too small, hat too small. All very interesting people. Loads of women in all levels and areas of work. The vibe of the building is extraordinarily positive. The people are all energized and go about their business in a building that seems to be itself a generator of creative energy. Maybe it is hype but it infects everyone so it seems to feed off others. And I had the real sense of open attitudes to individuality and diversity and lack of judgement and the positivity of engaging in creative endeavour. And Cirque is huge. It’s even bigger than I thought it was the day after I arrived. 


Stilts; with Mitch. Yay Mitch. What a cool instructor. Coach. Trainer. The stilts fit more comfortably and also the trainer wheels of the belt and support in the hands of the trainer give incredible confidence. And soon I am striding up and down the mats in a row in Studio E while the Russian trampoliners and another aerial artist work in straps over there. But concentration is high and soon I am able to scrape my focus off the floor and raise it to the walls around and Mitch quietly gives encouragement to caught-off-balance moments and the confident strides and the moment of trying to stand still for a moment. Much more confident; didn’t feel like I was gonna fall once.


Then working with Danielle; very positive interactions. Danielle is an amazingly good observer and coach of detail and ability to break down a movement for an actor and work with them to generate a physically true gesture. Authentic movement. And good attention to the task and driving the creative process. Positively demanding. Not distracted by anything.


We spend time looking at the moment of Pepper’s transformation when he turns his jacket inside out from military to the psychedelic anti-military mockery of the Sgt Pepper record cover. He forms the linking icon of the past and the present.  We spend some more time on the opening walk. Detail and familiarity.


Then 2.30 make up; a minutely detailed and described sequence of steps. A photographically recorded series of stages. In the next session I have to pass the test. Do I remember the sequence can I follow the instructions like Elizabeth who did it today. Under Isabel’s overseeing eye. And the instructions on removal. From Kim the other make up artist.  Very detailed and layered. New part of the ritual. Transformation. Old school. Then the session on in-ear monitor technology. The main feature of this refers to cleanliness and the avoidance of infection. Because you put these suckers deep in your ears and take them out. Ten times a week and if you don’t observe some precautions you will suffer some abrasions in your ear and further complications unless you learn how to avoid infection and prepare the equipment to best practice. This mostly so that I will be able to hear the technicians telling me if something is going on with the lifts and I should exit another way or something and I also have a mike pack and wires everywhere. Ten times a week for a year.


And so to the final day of training in montreal. There is some confusion about starting date in the contract which is entered as only to begin performing on the 15th June which would mean another two weeks of earning rehearsal salary which I can’t afford. This is cleared up through Patrick of the broken wrist and civil manner. But then everyone here is civil and positive and cool. Haven’t met one asshole in the whole building. In any department.

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