by Rachel Pender Cudlip (Company Manager)
The past 12 months have marked an extraordinary year for Extraordinary Bodies. 2021 was the start of a three year pattern of touring diverse led circus supported by a project grant from Arts Council England. A partnership between ourselves and Diverse City, Extraordinary Bodies this year has successfully completed the final tour of Human. We also created and toured Delicate, and have just embarked on our most ambitious production to date – a brand new musical circus theatre show.
Human is a show that evolved from two previous iterations. What Am I Worth was created as a touring show for both indoor and outdoor venues. Then COVID-19 hit and a touring show was no longer possible. We were presented with a unique opportunity to get creative and work out new ways of reaching our audiences. The product of this was What Do You See In Me – a 15 minute film recorded by the artists themselves on their smart phones and broadcast on YouTube.
When restrictions started to lift and touring was possible again, we wasted no time on starting our next venture. A show about the small moments that shape us, Human tells stories from the lives, childhoods and lockdown experiences of our four performers.
As well as having performers live on stage the show also includes pre-recorded footage. With a large screen at the back of the stage we were able to add another element to our storytelling. This approach of including both live and filmed elements draws on what we learnt during lockdown – finding new ways to interact and communicate with each other.
The screens on stage also provided opportunities to increase our access offering. Not only did it lend a platform to display our BSL interpreter and text captions, incorporating pre-recorded elements enabled cast members who were not able to physically join us on tour to still take part.
Another accessibility feature new for this show was that both the live and recorded sound was played through silent disco headphones. Audience members were handed headphones as they entered the auditorium with the choice of two channels – one with and one without audio description. The headphones also created an intimate relationship between performers and audience. It felt as if the characters were speaking directly to you.
Human was a huge learning curve. We worked with people in new ways, rehearsed in controlled, socially distanced circumstances and experimented with different technologies.
A show about how things needs to fall apart before they can fall into place, Delicate tells the stories of characters who lead different lives but are united with one thing in common. They’re frustrated with their bodies changing, ageing, breaking, no longer obeying.
Our talented cast use circus to explore the space around them and interact with each other. They examine marks life has left on their bodies. In the background, fragments of film and audio mirror these marks in the wounds inflicted on our planet. Again, drawing on our experiments with technology for Human, pre-recorded film is also included in the live show.
Having toured across England, you can now listen to the Delicate podcast, a digital piece which stands alongside the live show.
Waldo’s Circus of Magic and Terror
This year has also seen Extraordinary Bodies embark on their most ambitious project yet: Waldo’s Circus of Magic and Terror. Written by Hattie Naylor and Jamie Beddard, with an original score by Charles Hazlewood, the show is co-produced with Bristol Old Vic and Theatre Royal Plymouth.
It boasts a talented and highly skilled cast of disabled and non-disabled actors, circus performers, dancers and musicians. Set in 1933 Brandenburg where Nazis are burning books and suspending civil rights, many are desperate to escape. For Waldo and his travelling circus of outcasts, acrobats and aerialists however, ‘the show must go on’.
As Hitler’s dictatorship strengthens and oppression grows, the daring humanity and courage of this circus troupe stay hidden beneath the painted-on glamour of Waldo’s big top. Love, loyalty and risk-taking balance on the tightwire as the world outside becomes darker and more dangerous.
This spectacular new show tours nationally from March. For more information and tickets, visit the show’s website.
Cover Image by Ali Wright