Thursday, 9 August 2012

Catching Up

My goodness me, it's been a long time nice my last post... apologies everyone, it's been a strange old time of late.  I've been busy busy busy since term finished at Circomedia, firstly puppeteering the robot explorers Puppit + Digit, who've been popping up at Festivals and Olympic Torch events around Kent and East Sussex.

Tom, from Polymathematics (the company whose creations these are), has created a really nice promo video of what we do, which you can see here:

The more I work with these puppets, the more I enjoy it, firstly, because you're always discovering new ways of interacting and new levels of movement they can achieve, and secondly, the physical strength needed to heft them around (they're soooo heavy) has become almost like an addiction, in the way that many of the disciplines within circus can be; it's painful, but my God do you get a good adrenaline rush afterwards.

My friend Mary and I also were fortunate enough to spend a lovely two days developing The Double D's, our street theatre act, at Lakeside Arts Centre in Nottingham.  As part of my commitment to the Arts Council and the funding they provided for the first 3 months of my training at Circomedia, we also ran a workshop for Theatre Professionals based in the East Midlands, which was a really wonderful experience.  We had around 12 participants from all different areas of theatre, and guided them through skills in acro, aerial and manipulation, before moving on to some devising tasks which focussed on integrating circus and theatre.  It was a joy to work with such talented and intelligent people, and the session received great feedback.  Hopefully sessions like this will help to raise the profile of Circus-Theatre in a region where this is currently an under-developed Artform, and inspire people to utilise these skills in their own work.

At the end of July I worked as Assistant Director for Nottingham Playhouse on their Intermediate Summer School.  We worked with a group of 18 Young People to create a devised promenade performance based on the current exhibiting artists at Nottingham Contemporary, Alfred Kubin and Francis Uprtichard.

The two Artists are very different in their styles, and although at first glance their work may seem difficult to access and adult in its themes, the group worked brilliantly together to create an engaging performance set in an Art Gallery and performed to an invited audience at the Playhouse.

Most recently I have just finished co-directing a 3 day Circus summer school for students at NUSA in Nottingham, which culminated in a short performance back at Lakeside, where we were able to rig silks and a trapeze, upon which they performed after just a morning's tuition!  I worked with lovely Ria Ashcroft on this, and we were delighted and exhausted by the endless enthusiasm and energy of these Young People.  The changes we saw in their confidence levels and ability in just three short days were really wonderful, and we hope to foster longer term connections between ourselves, Lakeside and NUSA, to help further the development of circus in the region.

Tomorrow I'm back down to Bristol for rehearsals of a secret project which is in development for the end of September.  More details coming soon - watch this space!

And next week, a short holiday in Cornwall.  I think I deserve it...

Thursday, 21 June 2012

End of a Year

The End of Year show has been and gone, and tomorrow is the last day of the year at Circomedia.  I can't quite believe how it seems to have rushed through my body and heart in a whirlwind of colour, emotion, hilarity, tears, pain and friendship, leaving me feeling as though I've been picked up, shaken upside down, slapped around the face and given a big sloppy kiss before being placed gently back on the ground, somewhat more ruffled than before, but excited, open and relaxed.

Work has stacked itself up nicely for the summer, and I'll be busy busy busy with lots of different projects.  And who knows what the future holds right now?  I think, in some ways, one of the most surprising things that I've found from being at Circomedia is that I don't have to perform the self that I've carefully created over the years, but am free to be the person I find within myself, when everything is quiet, or I'm training, or laughing till my sides ache at the discoveries we are making.

Thank you, Circomedia.

Sunday, 3 June 2012

Sensory Circus, Polymathematics and the Double D's

Time for an update.  Things have been so hectic here that I haven't had chance to blog about everything that's been going on lately, so I'll start at the beginning...

May half term was busy.  VERY busy.  It kicked off with 3 days of workshops for the Arts Council, held at Lakeside Arts Centre, Nottingham.  I worked with several different groups, including students from Oakfield Special School.  I'd specifically asked to work with groups which included students with Profound and Multiple Learning Difficulties, and for this developed the concept of 'sensory circus', which is a very experiential way of accessing different circus skills, in a slow and relaxed atmosphere, so that each student is given space to respond in the way most appropriate for them.  And the reaction was  amazing.  I think, judging from the level of communication we achieved, that this is something that's definitely worth developing for the future, so once again, thanks to the marvellous Arts Council for the funding that's allowed me the opportunity to make these discoveries.

Next up, an audition with Nottingham based multi-disciplinary Arts company Polymathematics.  They have been commissioned to create 2 six foot explorer robot puppets who will be visiting Festivals in Kent and East Sussex this summer, called Puppit + Digit, and were on the look out for puppeteers.  Pleased to say I got the job, and this is us in rehearsals:


Puppit + Digit will have their first official outing on 16th and 17th June at the Fuse Medway Festival.  You can check out the links below for more info:

Sadly, this job has meant that I won't be a proper part of the End of Year show at Circomedia, which is called 'Winner Takes It All'.  However, there's a chance that I'll be making a guest appearance on the 2nd and 3rd night(!), and in the meantime am getting stuck into duties as Assistant Director, which is turning out to be a really good learning opportunity.

Finally, Double D Theatre have been back out on the prowl!  We've been developing a  walkabout act which we performed on the streets of Bath last Friday evening, and went down a treat!  This features five Brides-to-be, who gradually realise that they are waiting on the steps of the Abbey for the same man - who is hiding in and amongst the general public.  As the tale unfolds the Brides chase their Groom, argue between themselves, find comfort in members of the public, finally find their Groom in MacDonalds and end up brawling in the street, before one of the Brides (who happens to be 8 and a half months pregnant) goes into labour, and is carried away by the others, leaving the Groom all alone.  It was so much fun to perform, and Mary and I also had the opportunity to re-create our original Double D act in Parade Gardens.  Look out for more Double D news coming over the summer.


Monday, 14 May 2012

The Double D's

On Friday our entire year group headed to Bath to perform the circle shows that we’ve been rehearsing over the last week.  This was a culmination of five weeks worth of Street Theatre classes, taught by the wonderful Matt Pang, street performer extraordinaire.

We had been allowed to create any show we liked, either as a solo, duo or trio, with the emphasis on the creation of a busking show, as opposed to a street show you might see at a Festival, which kind of has different criteria.

My friend Mary and I took the opportunity to work together, and quickly decided that we wanted to speak about what it means to us to be female street performers (on a research trip to Bath I’d established that most of the current performers there are men of a certain age, doing quite traditional unicycling/juggling acts), and so ‘Dangerous and Delicious’ were born.  The premise of the show is that both Mary and I are looking for love, and hoping to snare a boyfriend through the use of male volunteers in our tricks.

And the first show was SO much fun.  Mary and I have loved working together in general – we have a similar sense of humour and through the act we try to win the audience over with comedy as much as skill, so devising has been a pleasure from start to finish, though my sides do hurt from laughing too much.  At the end of the show we close with the lines “We’re on twitter, so you can tweet us; and we’re also on Facebook, so feel free to poke us”, which worked a treat as we were then asked what the addresses were.  So what began as an school project and a great time has become slightly more official – The Double D’s (the name is ironic, in case you’ve never met us) are going out into the real world of street performing in July and August, hoping to charm the Nation and spread a little love.  Follow us and like us to keep up-to-date with where we’ll be appearing next:

Twitter:  DoubleDTheatre
Facebook:  doubledtheatre

Monday, 30 April 2012

I'm feeling terrified

Coming to Circomedia was the scariest thing I have ever done.  Though that statement may sound a little extreme, it's entirely true.  I was terrified of putting myself in a new situation with people I wasn't sure if I'd like, spending thousands of pounds of my own and the Arts Council's money on a course that I couldn't be certain would help me, and most of all, scared of failing.

And now it's happening all over again, but in reverse.  My year at Circomedia has been so amazing that I'm now dreading leaving the safety of this wonderful place and taking my first steps into back into the big bad world of employment, contracts, applications and constant judgement.  Even Bristol, which I used to feel was saturated with Circus-Theatre makers, has become my safety blanket because at least there is a demanding audience here, a network of contemporary practitioners, and pretty much any class/workshop/training session you could wish to take part in.  All of this needs to be established in the East Midlands, and it's a big thought to realise that if I want to take advantage of such an environment in the future, I'm going to have to make it in the present.

It's only worth doing if it scares you.
It's only worth doing if it scares you.
It's only worth doing if it scares you.
Repeat until breathing starts to return to normal...

Saturday, 21 April 2012

So here are some things I'm thinking...

On Thursday we had a warm up with one of our male aerial teachers, and as I knelt on the floor beating my chest with my fists and flinging my own arm over my shoulder to hit myself on the back in something that looks (and feels) like self-flagellation, I started wondering, what is it about circus that's just so male?

I think most would agree that the traditional vision of a female within the circus is of a beautiful sequinned lady being thrown into the air by a burly man, or looking weightless and ethereal on a trapeze.  Both of these women are clearly having a great time.  But why are we lying to the world?  The reality is that women in circus are covered in bruises and burns and smiling through gritted teeth, because these disciplines hurt.  We train like we're in the army, and pride ourselves on how many chin-ups we can do, yet we're only confirming our gender difference by allowing men to set the rules.  Even in contemporary circus women are physically working their knee high socks off to take over the male role of the base (myself included), yet this only furthers the idea that we define ourselves within the boundaries set out by our male counterparts.  What are we doing in circus to speak of what it means to really be female - to be naturally curvy and soft, to be mothers and sisters, to run households and businesses and yet be subjected to the male gaze in everything we do?

And in case you're wondering, no, I don't have any answers.  I just thought it was important to ask the questions.

Tuesday, 17 April 2012

A Catch Up

So I thought it was about time I posted some extra videos that I hadn't got round to yet.  The first is our clowning presentation which took place at the end of last term.  Our clowning intensive week was very rushed and so we're doing more this term, which I'm really happy about.  I don't think this is the best clowning in the world, and don't feel that I've found my clown yet, but it's an interesting first attempt.

And the next is a presentation of an improvisation we'd been working on when we were studying half masks.  I really love the way these masks lead you towards a character you'd never have come up with on your own, and the physicality that's inherent within this.  Again, it's just a first attempt, but it was fun.

So for now it's back to portfolio practice - I'm trying to put together a series of audition style pieces to showcase what I feel I've learnt at Circomedia.  So far there's a physical theatre piece about a job interview, and a dance/acro/hat manipulation piece which is entirely non-verbal, and will hopefully lead into another idea I've had for a one woman show.  Exciting times are ahead...

Thursday, 5 April 2012


The Easter holidays are nearly over, and my thoughts are turning towards the third and final term of my time at Circomedia.

Work has already started coming in for when I'm back in Nottingham, which is fantastic, and I'm over the moon that people seem to be excited about what I've been learning.  The question which is niggling at me though, is how to take this training, and carve a sustainable career from it.  I know from past experience that careers in the Arts are unpredictable - that there will always be times when you're bombarded with work and others when the cupboard is bare.  However, I need to make sure that the work that I'm being offered now and the 'buzz' there is about these new skills coming to the area doesn't fade away after a the first year or so.

Actors, eh?  We're never bloody happy...

Friday, 16 March 2012

Being Injured

Being injured is rubbish.  I just want that categorically and emphatically stated for the record. 

To add insult to ankle injury, this week has been acro intensive week.  That means that everyone who specialises in acro (yes, me) has had around 20 hours of taught acro time in addition to our normal lessons, where we would only normally have 4.  Translated, that means a lot of sitting and watching and taking notes and making videos, when everyone else is having fun.

Don't get me wrong - my injury is not that bad.  If I had a desk job it wouldn't even be a problem.  However, when you have a whole day of classes learning to lindy hop, it's more of an issue.

So now I'm limping along the fine line of trying to be cautious and protect my ankle as much as possible in order for it to heal effectively, and trying not to be too scared to try things, to still push myself in order to squeeze every last drop of training as I can from the course.  Last night I got the balance wrong by taking part in an extra rope class, and so today I've had to miss ballet. Rubbish.

There are always positives to be gained from any situation, and in this instance it's the opportunity the problem has given me to step back from 'doing' and think about creating instead.  Rather than taking part in this Friday's presentation, where the group will showcase what we've learnt from the week, I'm helping Lisa, our very lovely acro teacher, actually devise the presentation and put it together.  Every black cloud...

And on an altogether more positive note, here's a link to the blog of the New Perspectives Step Up ensemble, with whom I spent a day teaching circus based stuff in February.  I think it's poetically written, and a nice summary of the day from the participants' point of view.

Next blog is going to be more cheery.  I promise.

Tuesday, 6 March 2012

Bloody Hell

Bloody Circus school.

Bloody ankles.  Why do they have to be so flimsy anyway?

Yesterday, I dragged myself to school (I hadn't been very well over the weekend), specifically because I didn't want to miss our one tumbling lesson of the week.  I love to tumble.  Tumbling is what most people think of when you say acrobatics - back flips, headsprings and handsprings, somersaults and all that jazz.  It's high impact.  I had just started to feel a bit more like a normal human being and was having a great lesson - I'd just managed my first backward roll to handstand, which is a fairly simple move but I'd really been struggling with it and was being taught a cartwheel walkover, which is a great move, it looks really nice but is fairly easy to execute.  Until...  I'm not sure what went wrong but as I landed I seemed to crunch down on my ankle and ended up writhing on the floor in pain.  And now, well, the writhing has stopped but the pain's still there.  I can't walk very easily on it and just to add insult to injury my only way of getting to and from college every day is by bike.  Hmmmm.  Now if this was a normal job I would very happily take some time off, watch lots of Homes Under the Hammer and make myself generally comfortable on the sofa, but it's not, it's Circomedia and I want to be there.  We're doing clowning at the moment!  I can't miss clowning!

So I've got a physio appointment this afternoon.  I shall wait for the verdict.  But I am not a happy tumbler.  And I still want to do a cartwheel walkover.

Monday, 27 February 2012

Integration Week and Spring Project

Last week at Circomedia was Integration Week - and it was AMAZING!  We had workshops which gave us tools with which to create our own choreographies, working from the pedestrian to abstract, workshops in musicality of movement with the lovely Anna Helena McLean, we learnt from Bim about how to discover the theatre-ness of circus, and learnt how to generate text with Adam Peck.  I loved every second, but interestingly it really showed the differences between the students who are at Circomedia to explore creativity, and those who are here to train in the technical and skill elements of circus.  I wonder why we define ourselves as one or the other, and where the true meeting point is?

And on a different note, here's the link to the video of my Spring Project.  Obviously, as videos of live performances often can, it really lacks the atmosphere that was present on the night, but I think it's interesting as a work in progress.  I'd like to take the idea further, but know that the finished product will look very different to what it is right now.  As they say in the musical theatre world, I'm prepared to kill some babies to get there.  Lovely analogy, eh?

Monday, 20 February 2012

Week of Workshops

Half term has been and gone, and what a week it's been!  It kicked off with 2 days of  Creative Circus workshops on Monday and Tuesday, for children and Young People aged 8-16 years.  

There were 29 participants over the 2 days, who all learnt elements of drama, acrobalance, manipulation, aerial silks, and brought them together in a devised task at the end of the day.

Many thanks to the lovely people at Lakeside Arts Centre for hosting the workshops, the Arts Council for their funding and the amazing Nikki Disney for her invaluable support.  We had a great time!  

Here's what some of the participants had to say:
"I felt confident because Cat and Nikki helped me and I knew everyone's name"
"It's something new and I really enjoyed it.  Brill brill brill"
"It was so fun.  I can now do a handstand!"

Watch this space for more workshop opportunities in May and July.

And on Sunday I joined forces with Ria Ashcroft to run a circus workshop for the New Perspectives training ensemble, called the Step Up Creatives.  We had such a lovely day working with brave, talented young theatre makers, and can't wait to see how they use what they learnt from the day in their final show in June.  You can read more and see lots of pictures from the day here:

And finally, I have started to get a little bit technological in my old age and have joined Twitter!  You can follow me (get me, using all the lingo!) at @CatherineBoot.  However, I have no idea why this blog entry has decided it wants to centre all of the text.  Ah well!  You can't win them all!

Tuesday, 31 January 2012

Spring Projects

Our Spring Project performance dates are now only a week away, and I'm feeling excited, nervous, and daunted by the amount of work still to be done.

Circomedia have agreed to allow me to have a live musician/sound designer as part of my piece, namely my lovely partner Matt.  This was important to me as we want to collaborate together professionally in the future, and this seemed like a great opportunity to try out ideas.

Sound and music are integral to the piece that I've been developing, which tells the story of a woman so obsessed with newspapers that she lives vicariously through them, and struggles daily to leave the house.  There are no words in the piece, yet the soundscape that Matt and I have been designing lets the audience hear what the character hears - the whispers and babble of the newspapers talking to her.  The added layer of having this played live, along with visible newspaper scrunches into a microphone and accordion music, helps to add a layer of theatricality that lets the audience know that what is happening is only a perception of reality, not the reality itself.

Or at least, that's the idea.  Let's see what happens...

Monday, 23 January 2012

Time to Relax and Enjoy

So the most stressful week to date at Circomedia has finally been and gone.  Last Friday we presented our physical theatre and acro group pieces for this half term, and I am so glad that they're out of the way.  On February 8th we'll be presenting our Spring Projects, which is our first opportunity to make work which is entirely self-directed, and a chance to explore where we may want to go once we've left the course.  So trying to get together in groups for extra rehearsal when everyone is on different timetables has been fraught and tiring in equal measures.

In PT we've been working with Larval masks, which has been a new experience for me.  They're a funny mixture of having to use the body in very unnatural ways to produce a 'natural' looking result (obviously the masks don't move, so in order to emote, you have to show this through movements of the chest), and paring everything down to its component parts - in a mask every movement is more noticeable, so it's important to consider everything you do, right down to the flick of a finger, otherwise the mask appears to be 'talking' all the time.

Our brief for this presentation was to play an emotionally charged situation which didn't require words.  In case you can't tell, I'm the one who enters carrying the rose.

And in acro we've been working on tempo moves, which basically means throws and catches or anything with rhythm and movement involved.  I've also been taking part in an extra curriculur rope class on a Monday evening, which my arms aren't liking very much.  This just made last week ten times harder than it already was, hence the very large tubi-grip on my left arm.

So now it's time to breathe deeply, remember how much I love being here, and get stuck into my Spring Project.  I was so scared of trying to create something of my own before I arrived at Circomedia, because I felt that I didn't know how to begin, and now I just couldn't be more excited at the thought.

Sunday, 15 January 2012

Feelings of Guilt

Before I came to Circomedia, I remember saying to my partner, "I'm really looking forward to training full time, because I'll come home at 6pm every night, and I won't have to beat myself up about whether I'm going to go to the gym or do a dance class.  I'll just be able to relax."  How wrong I was.  I feel guilty pretty much every moment I'm not at Circomedia.  Every evening when I leave (which is usually between 6.30-9pm), there are still students there training; every weekend is the same.  It's really hard to find the right balance, and it's difficult not to compare yourself to the other students, yet we're all so very different.

My greatest fear is that in the future I'll look back on this time and feel that I didn't make the most of this amazing opportunity.  But the reality is that there just aren't enough hours in the day to take part in the taught classes, write up notes on every session, be thoroughly prepared for each presentation and written assignment, eat well, sleep well, and do extra training in our 'free' time.  And so we all have to prioritise.

My priorities are to make the very most out of the amazing teaching that Circomedia offers, to take on feedback, to explore my own creativity, to learn how to use my body in new ways, and to keep a record of everything that happens during this time, so that I can apply all of these learnings for future practice.

I've been struggling to write this blog all weekend, because I can't seem to find the conclusion to it.  Normally when I reach the end of writing a blog, I've somehow managed to work through whatever issue it was that had been bothering me.  Not so this time.  There is no conclusion to be had.  This just isn't a nine to five kind of a job.

Tuesday, 10 January 2012


Okay, with the help of the wonderful Wayne at Circomedia, I think I may have finally cracked uploading videos to this blog.  You'll have to watch them on YouTube, but essentially it's the same as the ones that have gone before (i.e. click and watch.  Easy, eh?)

The first is our presentation for the Lecoq based movement technique that we studied in the first 8 weeks of last term.  Lecoq would have called each of these movement and mime phrases 'etudes', and they're great for increasing physical precision and articulation.  The presentation called for us to choreograph all of the movements in a sequence, with as much of an eye for spacing and creativity as possible.  They may seem strange, and/or a bit dull, but here's the link anyway:

And the second is much more fun: our end of term acro presentation, where we were free to delve into character and theme.  We also had to work with a prop from a choice of a chair, a school bench, a rope and a gym horse.  We chose the chair, and this is what happened.  Enjoy!