Circus 50:50 Diaries

Over the past month five circus artists and five theatre makers from the across the country have been coming together to take part in our Circus, Past Present and Future artist development programme, Circus 50:50.

Created in partnership with Roundhouse, London and Upswing, over a series of workshops led by industry experts, the group have been exploring the fascinating relationship between the two art forms. The artists have been blogging from the workshop room.

Day 1 

The Circus 50:50 programme began with a session exploring narrative in circus, led by writer-director and performance creator Firenza Guidi.

Roland Smith tells us about the experience:

The Aleph

The Aleph is the point in space that contains all other points, where anyone who looks into it everything in the universe from every angle simultaneously, without distortion, overlapping, or confusion.

Or that at least is how it was imagined by Jorge Luis Borges in a short story quoted by Firenza Guidi as she led the first session of Circus 50:50.

That feeling of standing on a precipice, unsure of where the next step will take you but with the belief that once the mist clears then you will have a clear view to the horizon that is implicit in The Aleph is exactly the  same sensation as day one of Circus 50:50.

Although our motivations for being in the room differ, what I sense all ten of us have in common is the desire to come together to take time to explore, discover and share our experience so that we can gain new perspective on our individual artistic practice.  Inevitably, on this first day, the energy is part excitement, part wariness and part nervousness as everyone settles into the room.

It was into this space that Firenze Guidi walked.

A writer-director and creator of performance, Firenze has the careless elegance of self-sufficiency that is common amongst many artists who have carved their own creative path through our cultural landscape. For NoFit State she has directed Immortal (2004-2007), Tabu (2008-2010), and Labyrinth (2011), Bianco (2012) and the most recent addition to the canon, Lexicon.


Accompanied by juggler Cecilia Zucchetti – who was herself accompanied by her 5 month old daughter Zélie – Firenze gave us a glimpse of her creative approach through gently guiding and shaping Cecilia’s performance. What began as a simple, contemporary juggling routine, under Firenza’s guiding hand began to evolve beyond the technique and physicality into something more expressive.

At first this was simply suggesting the relationship with non-seen characters of stage – in one direction Cecilia’s gaze and movement was directed to be playful, whilst in the other respectful. This simple status dynamic acted to imbalance the otherwise measured technical presentation, as first the eye-line, the facial expression and very quickly the quality of Cecilia’s movement flitted between the two offstage admirers.

As the exercise progressed, Firenza introduced a bag of soil into the playing space. Again, Cecilia began with a simple routine, the flow of which was derailed first by Firenza’s instruction to dirty her hands and then to give the dirt its own, low status – to explore the distaste and disgust as it affected her relationship with her hands.

What I was left with was an intrigue into how we as theatremakers can embrace circus in the development of our work. This is not the same as simply introducing circus as a tool or medium for narrative or spectacular.

By starting from the movement and the physicality of the discipline we are able to draw focus to a point in space. It is from this point that we are able to introduce the stimulus, make the intervention and provide the context that fractures the here and now, allowing the all the emotions, thoughts and experiences that we want to bring to the stage to flood through. The discovery for me was that this came not from layering something on top of the physical practice, The ‘circus element’ was not present as a metaphor for something else. The technical discipline was the departure point for the work. It provided the initial crack in reality which opened the space for us to explore something deeper without recourse to language or text. It became a window into the essence of the stories we want to tell.

For those who are clear sighted enough, it is the physical practice is itself the Aleph through which they can explore and understand the world.

Roland Smith

Day 2

The second day of Circus 50:50 explored circus and adaption and was led by New Vic Theatre’s Artistic Director Theresa Heskins.

Fergus Evans talks about the day in a Vlog – click the link below to hear what his thoughts on the experience.

Click here to watch a video from today