getting into stride on planet circus

June 6, 2008

Ekenah the Brazilian artist playing one of the Nowhere Men invites me to a show this evening at another theatre. A show that Sylvia, who plays Eleanor Rigby and also from Brazil, also wants to go see. Like a doos I said ‘No think I’d prefer to stay here.’ At Revolution; the Beatles themed club in the Mirage Hotel. Which I do for an hour and dance hard for twenty minutes and then flee into the night. But my stride is timed to the rhythm of regret. I should have gone and seen some local theatre. Anyway didn’t go. On the way home, in one of the slightly underlit (by Las Vegas standards) streets, a guy is walking along and says,
‘Hey this might be a strange question but do you smoke weed? I don’t want the rest of this.’
And he sticks out the second half of a joint and I look him straight n the eye and say
‘I thank you for the very generous offer but at this time I turn you down.’
By this time we are past each other and walking off into the night. Hesitant to trust anyone in this city.

It is May 29th; Attended the farewell ‘gala’ of awards presented by the company of performers to each other. A party at Crystel and Evelyne’s house. Excellent jol. Another moving testament to the extraordinary generosity of this company of performers. The video tributes and parodies of each other hilarious, and the devotion to each other and the product is beautiful.

My two days off are kind of wasted in sleep. But much of it is catch up from the last week. Which was first week of integration. Craig is exceptionally generous and helpful in the handover of Pepper. My first performance I got completely disoriented backstage and was heading for the right runway for my next entrance but in completely the wrong direction. He there to calmly guide me back. By now I have played the show eight times in the four days and today begins the first full week. It’s a special kind of fitness which is building up. I am a little concerned about my left knee which is aching and tweaking and feeling stiff. Perhaps something to do with the boots, or lack of alignment. The masseuse gave it some attention and relief but I am watching it carefully this week as this week we begin more intensive stilt training every day as well as strength and conditioning with Jeff. We shall see…

Back to work… have played the show a total of 14 times now. Four hundred and fifty something to go. The performance routine is beginning to settle in so more specific training times are becoming a reality. Every evening stilt training with Coach Dan. This progressing very well on the training stilts and hopefully soon onto the required height of four feet . But baby steps and softly softly. Another aspect of training routine has been treating my left knee which is showing signs of stress; slight swelling and discomfort I think from working out of alignment; an old bad habit fallen into in new conditions. The problem now is time to rest it. Jim the head of health gave it a physio examination and recommended regular ice to discourage swelling and focus on alignment.

Then we were visited by Guy from Montreal, he of the design department responsible for the measuring of my inside leg, and the woman who is taking over his job. They review the design elements of the show; make up, costume etc. He raises concern about my make up and I show him the step by step design pictures given me. There is more discussion in French and when I enquire the next day Kati tells me that they have decided to wait for the make up design person who is coming in August. She is busy with the show in Macau and another in … somewhere. Then Kati says they want me to have a haircut. Great, I say. It feels comfortable but not in period; it would have been much shorter on the sides. I report the next day and Lois the graceful hairdresser gets to work under the eyes of Guy and Kati and the new person whose name escapes me. Then something happens and I only am aware of it later. The more Lois cuts the sides the more Guy goes
‘Non non, all off.’
‘You don’t want me to leave a little body on top here?’ asks Lois.
‘No,’ says Guy, ‘All off.’
Kati enthusiastically agrees and so I am given a number one head shave. The result is military and harsher than before but in my opinion after reflection seems like a decision lacking in imagination and creative courage. The safe option is taken to avoid getting it wrong. In the case of my haircut the decision seems to be based on what makes the actor look like Rodrigue, the original Sgt Pepper. (And, in fact, every other Sgt Pepper since has been bald and head shaven.)
As the head becomes balder and balder the nods and ‘Oui’s’ grow in volume and energy because it feels like they are reassured that the look is close to the original. The style has nothing to do with the period and has no relation to the specific Sgt Pepper which is emerging from this actor.
On the other hand the performance details and choreographic and interpretative freedom offered by Kati in some of the scenes is encouraging and challenging.
But, ironically, the acrobats work with physical danger and safety all the time because the work is framed in calculated risk. The actor’s work, certainly in taking over a role, seems framed in creative safety. Perhaps this is not the case in creation.

To watch a company say goodbye to so many of its own is very moving. Each day that I work in this company and each night twice a night as I watch an extraordinary team of artists, stage managers, coordinators and technical teams collaborate to make this unique work with sublime skills, orchestrated into a beautiful physical, visual, performance and aural poem, it becomes more clear that Cirque is not the suits and share holders. Cirque exists when this and the other companies of players and technicians work together. I am told that the reason why so many people have been replaced in this show was because of the very difficult creation period. But I have a growing fear that there is something fundamentally wrong with Cirque at the moment.

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