Cirque Éloize: An interview with performer Ashley Carr
This month, Cirque Éloize brings its new show, Cirkopolis, to London’s Sadler’s Wells. Cirque Éloize captivated audiences the world over with its blend of theatre and circus. The Upcoming caught up with performer Ashley Carr to learn about circus life and the spirit of the clown.
Cirkopolis has been directed by both Jeannot Painchaud and Dave St-Pierre. How much input into the show do the performers get?
Like any collaboration, you have a mix between the conception team, and then on our end, we put together numbers and sequences. We meet in the middle; we give propositions and they take them away and maybe adapt the music, and we take the music and perhaps adapt the movement. We end up with an organic finish that’s very human.
Cirque Éloize seems less flashy than other circus-theatre acts. Do you attract a more sophisticated crowd?
With only 12 onstage, we’re a small troupe, so we’re different in that sense. We try to have an eclectic mix of work and a more in-depth, theatrical and poetic base to it, but we still aim to make it entertaining. Ours isn’t necessarily a more intellectual audience; I mean, the shows appeal to kids as well as adults.
What is it about the clown that fascinates you, and what do you think is a clown’s purpose?
It’s one of the few roles within the circus that has direct contact with the audience. A clown brings people into the heart of the show. His vulnerability shows people their own vulnerability and the beauty of simple things. That interests me. It’s about taking people on a journey; it’s about imagination.
Circus is such an immediate art form: you have to be so present onstage. Has this changed how you are offstage too?
For sure. If you spend your life in unpredictable, strange situations you take that into your everyday life. If you really follow in that spirit of the clown then you take that with you offstage.
Do your stunts induce stage fright?
We’ve been doing this a very long time, so there isn’t too much of that. We have to be very composed before we go onstage so that we can then let the momentum explode.
Which influences from the theatre and circus worlds do you most admire?
Robert Lepage [director of and actor in] Far Side of the Moon, Cirque Elfance, Shockheaded Peter [Crouch & McDermott’s 1998 show] and Daniel from working on Rain [the 2004 Cirque Éloize show].
You achieved success early on. Have you always had a clear picture of what sort of theatre you wanted to create?
I used to want to be an acrobat, but then I got into what really interested me, which was touching the public and give them something to take away emotionally and personally. Seeing Nomade (Cirque Éloize) in Athens, that poetry inspired me, and I was very fortunate to be taken onto the show. I’ve had a very lucky run of it.
Are you a closely bonded group?
You all get thrown into the same pot together, so we rely on each other. People’s lives are on the line, a lot of blood, sweat and tears. You share the same buses, same theatres 12 hours a day. There are different personalities and you have to try to get along. Most are open, motivated generous souls, which makes it easier.
The troupe is made up of many different nationalities. Is there much of a language barrier?
The majority are Québécois; we’ve got some English, one Spanish, one Dutch. Normally the main language is French, but some don’t speak it so we alternate between French and English. I’ve had to improve my French.
You’ve performed in theatres and festivals all over the world. Where has been your favourite place to perform?
I enjoyed street theatre. It’s very humble and very honest; if people don’t like what you’re doing, you don’t eat. But then I’ve played in some incredible places: Hong Kong, Paris. I’ve played in the Sydney Opera House, and in Montevideo in Uruguay, at the Moscow International Chekhov Theatre Festival.
How do you keep up your fitness when you’re not performing?
Lots of the performers have to do physiotherapy. I do a lot of cycling and kite surfing; I’m not allowed to do it because of the risk of accidents, but I do it anyway. I like to breathe the fresh air.
Any big plans for the future?
I’ll see what happens.
Cirkopolis is on at the Peacock Theatre at Sadler’s Wells until 28th February 2015, for further information or to book visit here.
Watch the trailer for Cirkopolis here: