Monday, 29 August 2011

Into the ring!

My first show in the ring was on Saturday morning. I sat in the bus adjusting my hair and decorating my eyelids with little sparkly beads. Luke and most of the cast were already standing out at the concessions stand, fully costumed and set for the show. Mary, like me, was no where to be seen. We both emerged from our trailers at about the same time and grinned at each other, exchanging comments of first show nerves. We lifted up the tent walls and carefully coaxed our neatly costumed and hatted heads under the tent, trying as we did so, to not to catch our hair in the wires or any the other random assortment of hair attacking obstacles to get past between there and the ring.

Briar was in the tent stretching. She had headphones in as the pre show music blared out of the sound system. Damo and Nick were over by the sound desk checking the mics for the Ring Master's introduction. Mary set abut standing her slack-line up, and I went through what was to become my standard full body warm up for stilt acrobatics and trapeze.

The ring mat was bright yellow and cool to the touch as I lay out, stretching. I tried to calm my mind, it was a mess of pre-show nerves, excitement and slight fear about working on a different aerial rig to normal. I looked around at the bright red sets and tried to picture what it would be like in 35 minutes. I took a deep breath - it was almost time to put stilts on and head out for pre-show entertainment. Quietly beaming with excitement- I thought to myself, that I really had no idea what to expect from this show - or the tour to come. Now, looking back, that thought seems ridiculous.. No idea was about the understatement of the year!

Saturday, 27 August 2011

Two new stars, and dinner for 10

The lights flickered on in the pre-tent as a fine mist engulfed the site. Paddy, the circus cook was pottering around in the chuck wagon, carefully preparing the diverse range of dishes for our mis-matched crew of gluten free, vegan. vegetarian, and meat eaters. Amazing smells wofted across the lot as a few cast members congregated around the caravan.

Damo walked up and Paddy cheerfully informed him that dinner was ready. Luke and I started ferrying dishes out to the pre-tent and placing them down on a side table. Damo stood by us, and without warning erupted in a call that would have frightened an angry T-rex into submission.
"Ouch do ya have to? Mike wandered, jestfuly nudging past the boss. "Oh hey Eve, do you like Damian's dinner call?" He grinned, This was another thing to look forward to every meal.

It seemed everyone understood Damian's unintelligible vocal hail, because moments later the pre-tent was alive with activity.. Dinner, meeting time and the official welcoming of Mary, our new silks and slack-line performer, who had arrived earlier that day. She and I would be stepping into the ring for the first time tomorrow.. We were both super excited.

Friday, 26 August 2011

Arrival in Queenstown

With a bright teal green caravan lumbering along behind us we started our journey over the pass to Queenstown. The convoy of trucks and trailers was taken in three trips as we only had two drivers licenced for the larger vehicles. I was in the third convoy with Luke, Mike and Briar.
It had been a long day of rolling tent skins onto trailers and locking down caravans for travel. It had been hot, and with the Chuck wagon (our food caravan) packed down, there was nothing available to eat. We traveled in silence. We were all too tired and hungry to engage in conversation. The scenery was stunning for the entirety of the journey, this was enough to occupy our thoughts for the duration.

Just after 5pm we rolled into the new lot. We disembarked the vehicles and forced ourselves into action. Everyone was carefully arranging the caravans out ready to encircle the big top. We started the task of pitching the pre-tent (our dining room) and setting up the chuck wagon. The main big top wouldn't go up until the morning, but a few essentials had to be set… Tomorrow promised to be a huge day.

Thursday, 25 August 2011

Coffee and a day off

It was 10am and the sun was streaming through the windows of the bus - I opened my eyes. 'Coffee' I thought. The word echoed through my mind as the only thought that held any sort of coherence. This was followed shortly by the delight of finding Luke snuggled in beside me. He opened one eye and gave me a half smile, "Coffee?" he whispered. We smiled

Three neat parcels of packed down tent nested in the grass. The mountains around Wanaka framed the skyline of our circus, as we stood outside, dazzled by the sunlight on the steps of the bus.  It was decided that coffee in town was needed as David had smashed the coffee-plunger only the week before. We let the boss know, and headed off-site.
..David, for your reference is very good at smashing things, and is responsible for the distraction of almost every wine glass the circus owns and an array of other assorted glass objects - oddly enough, he is also the only one of us that quite happily will eat the glass of wine - including the glass itself - hold on to your light bulbs everyone, and don't let him near the china ware! I pondered on this for a moment before noticing that all the crockery plates had been replaced with plastic camp plates.. I giggled a little.

Show time!

It was a 2pm show, so as mid day approached, the energy levels of everyone on site increased. The ticket van was a buzz. The extra generators were switched on and the sound system roared to life with pre show music. I had clambered atop of one of the trucks to put my stilts on before the photo shoot, but now the time had come. Moments later, I was walking high above the hoards of local Wanaka townsfolk awaiting the show.

At the end of the second half, as soon as the audience started trundling out of the tent it was time to pull it down. Dance shoes and sequins were thrown aside and replaced with hard wearing gloves and boots as one by one, the other performers joined in with pack down, it was all hands on deck.

High winds prevented us from fully packing down, so we got the seating and walls away into the trucks and paused for dinner, tomorrow was ordinarily a day off for everyone, but instead of this - it would be an early start, hit head on at a running pace with sledge hammers blazing. Good morning from Circus Aotearoa.

Wednesday, 24 August 2011

Wake up call - Day 2

There was a loud CRASH on the windows of the bus- I awoke with a start and glanced over at Luke - "yeah.. you'll get used to that" he said.. Apparently that was the standard wake up call for the circus - the bosses would send who ever was awake charging aground the lot yelling and crashing on everything they could find.. it seemed to ignite a sense of delight in whoever was given the privilege - maybe because it meant that on that one occasion, they didn't have to be woken by the un-nerving racket themselves.
We were up and about in minutes, shoveling spoonfuls of cereal into our mouths, and getting ready to set up for the matinee show. Being a Sunday, there was only a single show.. a single show and my first tent-down, that is.

Damian, the ringmaster slowly ambled toward me, he mumbled something about pre-show and stilts, which roughly translated as an invitation to perform walkabout entertainment for this show. It would be too hard to integrate me into the full production mid stand, so I was lucky enough to be eased in gently! I obeyed, and costumed up, then looked around for somewhere high to sit while I put my stilts on.

..I was way to early. I had been excited about coming to the circus for weeks and was so eager to perform that I ended up sitting on the trucks with my stilts on for nearly an hour. Damian walked over to me again - this time with company. The press had come to cover the circus and it seemed that I was conveniently dressed for the occasion. Luke and I were asked questions about our careers in circus and invited to pose in front of the tent.. The newspaper featured us on the front page with a huge heading "Magic of the circus brings Jugglers, Clowns and Aerialists south"

To see the web site of this article.. click here

Day one at the circus

The caravans were seated in a neat circle, inside of which, a huge striped red and blue big top loomed high above the surrounding trees and trucks. Two flags blew high in the winds from the supporting king poles and the echo of pre-show music blared out from the doorways of the tent.

I arrived in between two shows on Saturday afternoon, people were bustling around, setting up the drinks and popcorn stand for another round of audience members. I was tired, over tired in fact – I had been traveling for 27 hours by the time I reached the circus and mild delirium had me in a constant state silliness. I bounced around, greeting old friends and squirrelling around in, out and through the tent. It was so good to see everyone. Luke was there and for the first time in over eight months, we knew we were actually going to be in the same place for long enough to really enjoy the time together.

I dragged my bags and stilt poles up into one of the sleep-in buses and flopped back on the bed at the end of the bus. I was woken 30 mins later by Luke standing over me in full costume informing me that the show was about to start.

It was an epic effort to force myself into some level of consciousness, I wanted to see the show. I would be a cast member in the same ring for the remainder of the tour, so this was the only chance to view it as an audience member. I stumbled out of the bus and made my way to the seating inside the big top.

The performance was lively, energetic and well loved by the audience. A small all-human cast, only 7 performers, each with two routines. This circus was animal free as are many of the modern traveling tents these days. Having traveled by caravan for a long time, in all honesty, I was delighted by this – not only for the animal rights issues, but there is also enough to do without having to look after a trailer zoo as well!

The finale was a spinning rope act, performed by Michael the rope warier..  and just like that, the show was closed and the cast were skipping back into the ring for a final bow. I remember smiling back at the beaming faces of my old classmates as they waved to the audience and retreated in a cloud of glitter back through the backstage gates.

I stood up with the crowd and made my way along the bleachers to the exit of the tent, to my surprise, the whole cast had magically appeared at the front oarning of the tent to shake the audiences hands and hi five the kids. I grinned at them all, congratulated them on the show, and snuck back to the bus where the excitement must have worn off instantly because in moments, I was fast asleep.