In recent years Galway Arts Festival audiences have been wowed by the circus skills and acrobatic brilliance of Australia’s Circa company but this year Melbourne’s Thissideup Acrobatics are set to emulate their compatriots with their much-acclaimed Controlled Falling Project.
Controlled Falling Project has appeared at many of Europe’s leading festivals over the past two years, delighting audiences and garnering numerous rave reviews wherever it goes; its Edinburgh Fringe run was hailed by The Guardian as an “eye-poppping and graceful show” and praised for its “intelligence, strength and significant wow factor.
Thissideup Acrobatics’s visit to Galway will be their first time performing in Ireland.
Ahead of the company’s arts festival visit, founder member Christian Schooneveld-Reid did a skype interview from Barcelona where they are in the midst of rehearsals for their latest tour.
“It’s a beautiful and sunshiney city, lots of fun and good people,” he enthused about the Catalan capital. “We have a little base here and we start off every year here before we set out on tour. It makes a welcome change from the Australian winter!”
Christian went on to outline how Thissideup first came together.
“There are three main acrobats involved in the company – myself, James Brown, and Casey Douglas [David Joseph completes the cast of the current show]- and we met through a circus school in Melbourne where we trained in different years but knew each other,” he says. “We decided to get together and form a company in 2007 and we started developing work and since then we’ve made three feature-length shows ourselves and been involved in numerous productions of other people’s and all sorts of corporate work.”
While the company have done a wide range of work, Controlled Falling Project has proved their breakthrough show and has raised their international profile.
“It definitely was our breakthrough.” Christian admits. “It was the first very successful show that we developed purely ourselves. We first developed it for a fringe festival in Melbourne in 2009.
“An Italian producer came along to see the show and he quite liked it so he helped us to bring it to Italy and France the first year and from there we’ve expanded all over Europe and next year we’re looking to bring it to North and South America.”
Controlled Falling Project is a thrilling and sophisticated circus experiment, where old science meets new circus in a heart–stopping, high–energy creative spectacle. The action unfolds in the laboratory of a mad scientist who is conducting experiments into the limits of human physicality with the acrobats serving as his living crash-test dummies.
Christian explains how the idea evolved.
“It was quite a funny process really,” he says. “We built the show in our back yard and kind of developed characters as we went along. We developed the acrobatic routines because they are quite complicated and very specific and then we tried to find a theatrical element that would suit the routines we were working on.
“A few people said we looked like mad scientists running around experimenting on things so that idea kind of developed as we went along, we started off with a simple science theme and now we have a professor and a full set of experiments that we carry out in the course of the show.”
I ask Christian what sets Thissideup apart from other companies working in the area of circus arts.
“Usually circus isn’t so ‘justified’,” he replies. “Performers usually like doing big tricks and then going ‘ta-dah!’ and we really try to avoid that as much as possible. We make the tricks sort of tell stories.
“It’s something you can’t avoid so much in circus, when you do a double back flip, you do it and you stop and the trick is over, but we try and fit it all in so that it’s a seamless routine and it all fits together without too much stopping and starting.”
Controlled Falling Project, which promises to captivate audiences of all ages, plays at NUI Galway’s Bailey Allen Hall from Tuesday July 19 to Friday 22 at 8pm nightly. There will also be a post-show talk with all of the cast after the opening performance.