Strong lady presents: power

I am deeply excited to be bringing my circus-storytelling show POWER to the Studio at The Lowry on September 30th and October 1st. The show was commissioned by The Lowry’s WEEK 53 festival, which was sadly cancelled in 2020 – thankfully, now it is time to bring it to Salford!

This is an optimistic celebration of the ways we are powerful, even in an uncertain world. I use the physical strength of circus skills to reveal the inner strength in the stories people have told me of their resilience, determination, courage and perseverance. Their voices join in the storytelling through the soundtrack, interwoven with autobiographical stories of a circus Strong Lady.

Building on 20 years of outdoor arts touring as a circus strong lady, POWER is my first solo theatre show. The leap from outdoor work to theatre (and also from spectacle to storytelling) was a journey that involved a series of incredible mentors, collaborators, supporters and inspirations, over the course of a few years.

As the idea for POWER first took shape, I was deeply influenced by a few shows in particular: Robert La Page’s ‘887’ ; Complicite’s ‘The Encounter’ ; and Ockham’s Razor’s ‘Tipping Point’.

887 was inspiring in many ways, but the most profound was the way that La Page seems to ‘step into a puddle of story’. He will be telling you about a moment and then will suddenly be in that moment, living it, and we will be right there with him. This is something I have tried to bring into POWER.

The Encounter had a similar thing that really struck me (aside from it being an astounding work all around) in the ways that Simon McBurnie would shift from direct address and explaining things to us, into us watching him experience something in a way where a change in his physicality would pull us into another world. The way he discovered the ideas of the show, seemingly in real time with us, was also something I wanted to bring into my work.

Tipping Point inspired me to think more deeply about what was possible in using circus skills to communicate emotion and story – with a complex balance of effort, peril and play in performing circus skills. My work has previously inhabited a very presentational and interactive style, this show prompted me to explore intersecting that style with something
more vulnerable – allowing the audience to watch me have an experience sometimes, without me always watching them back.

England’s fund ‘Developing Your Creative Practice’, which enabled me to be mentored by two influences on the project: Joyce Henderson (Complicite) and Charlotte Mooney (Ockham’s Razor). These two women supported me in creating my own style in using circus as a storytelling tool. Charlotte continued to be my creative mentor throughout the process of creating POWER.

To expand my physical vocabulary and shape my creative process I also worked with other inspiring collaborators and mentors including: Emma Bernard (a theatre director who helped me explore shaping the journey of the show
and creating a script for it) – Emma went on to become the director for POWER.

Mervyn Millar (the object animation director of War Horse, who helped me discover what was possible with the objects on stage) Eleanor Hooper (a director and sound artist who explored the possibilities of a voice over soundtrack with me and how I might interact with it) – She paved the way for the work I would do with Matt Eaton, the composer for the show.

Petra Massey (genius physical comedian from Spy Monkey, she guided me in finding both lightness and depth in the work and also how I might bring world of the ‘strong lady’ into this show) Jess Love (a circus artist who generously shared details of her creative process in making circus-theatre work, to help shape my method) Telma Pinto, Anthony Missen of Company Chameleon and Farid Herrera (who all helped me explore what was interesting, powerful and possible for my body – in creating choreography with acrobatics and dance, that would communicate a story).

Fuelled by the possibilities I discovered in these collaborations, POWER was commissioned by The Lowry’s WEEK 53, with The Lawrence Batley Theatre. It received support from Arts Council England, an award from Cambridge Junction/Creative Arts East – as well as a number of very generous venue partners (Metal, Jackson’s Lane,Queens Theatre Hornchurch and Out There Arts).

As a self producing circus artist, newly entering into the theatre touring landscape, I was mentored through this project by Steve Cowton at The Lowry and began an incredibly impactful, ongoing mentorship with both Alison King at Turtle Key Arts.

This support for POWER (my first funded show) – meant that (for the first time) I was able to
create work with a whole creative team. It has enabled me to take a huge leap in my practice, into territory I would not have been bold enough to explore on my own. I have worked with Emma Bernard as a director; Matt Eaton as a composer and sound designer, Charlotte Mooney as creative mentor; Sophie Postlethwaite as lighting and set designer; as well as Farid Herrera and Gabbie Cook as movement coaches. I also worked with a therapist to help guide me in dealing responsibly with people’s stories, as well as the audience’s experience.

The journey of making POWER took a few years – and has transformed my artistic practice in the process. Funnily enough, for a show where I talk a lot about how independent I am, this journey has only been possible through the generous collaboration, mentorship and support of many people. I am so grateful to them… and very excited to share the show with you!

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