Flying high from receiving rave reviews for Company 2’s latest work, Scotch and Soda at this year’s Adelaide Festival, Co-founder and circus performer Chelsea McGuffin continues to push the boundaries with a combination of toe tapping jazz numbers and spellbinding tricks at this year’s London Wonderground Festival. Ahead of Scotch and Soda’s UK debut, Theatrefullstop were able to speak to Chelsea about leaving the world of ballet to train as a circus performer, Company 2’s inspirations for the show and whether glowing reviews add pressure to the performers.
Company 2’s latest creation, Scotch and Soda will be headlining this year’s London Wonderground festival. How are you feeling ahead of the show?
I am really excited to be returning to London Wonderground with Scotch & Soda. We performed Cantina at the festival a number of years ago and it was a highlight season for me in my career. Scotch & Soda is an original and exhilarating project for us. We have new cast members, new music and we feel ready to hit the London stage. I am so excited to come back.
Could you describe Scotch and Soda? What will the audience expect to see?
Scotch & Soda is a boozy evening of jaw-dropping feats and live jazz beats. You can expect to see Australia’s finest acrobats performing gravity-defying circus skills and mesmerising original jazz music from the Crusty Suitcase Band. The show tells the story of a rag tag group of misfits having a really wild party. A breathtaking party with the audience right at the heart of it.
Having received glowing reviews from the likes of the Guardian at this year’s Adelaide Fringe Festival, does this in anyway add pressure to the cast?
Ah … Yes and no. We have reworked the show since Adelaide and London is a very different audience to the Australian audience. The pressure is always on no matter if the reviews are good or bad. That’s what being a performer is all about. You are always in the limelight and always going to be judged. I find having family, close friends or colleagues in the audience is when I feel most under pressure.
Could you describe the rehearsal process?
Challenging! It is some mean feat to have five amazing musicians and five extremely talented circus artists all in a room together. It’s such a rich mix of creativity, sometimes it is just too much! Ben Walsh, David Carberry and I co–direct this piece and try our best to be as planned as possible before we get in the room so that we can maximize the time and creative energy.
As co-founder of Company 2, what inspired both yourself and David Carberry to create the company? What is the company’s mission statement?
David and I have always been driven to create our own work. Even when we worked for other companies we were driving ideas. We both finished up with CIRCA with the aim to create our own company to start making work for us and by us. There has never been any question about it, circus and performing is our life and passion. We are lucky that we live our lives doing what we love. We have to work hard for it but the love keeps us going.
Previous works from Company 2 include, ‘She Would Walk The Sky’, ‘Sediment’ and ‘Cantina’. What inspires the company’s creations?
Crazy late night ideas, conversations, red wine, people, collaboration and inspiration from my kids or a new circus skill. Each show has its own story as to how it came about but the essence is about the ensemble of people and what they have to say as a group and what we want to say with the work.
Which production has been the most challenging to stage and why?
Hmm. That’s a hard question. Every work has a challenge and that is what gives it its fire I think. That challenge keeps us thinking and working to find a way through, find the right collaboration, the message, the reason, and the right skill. If it didn’t have a challenge I don’t think we would keep doing it. Each work for me came about for a reason at that time in my life. So working through that performance challenge pushed me to my next place.
What has been your favourite production performed by the company so far?
Each show has something to offer. As they are our works, and so connected to what is going on in life for us, I think they all have favourite moments. My current favourite moment is working with animals which I have never done before and do for the first time in Scotch & Soda. But I do miss walking in high heels on David which I did hundreds of times in Cantina.
You trained as a ballet dancer from the age of 5, but decided to stop at the age of 20 to join a travelling circus. What influenced this decision?
I stopped dancing as it was not leading me in the direction I wanted at the time. I loved to dance and I loved performing but I was looking for something else. Circus just came about. I was not looking for it, I stumbled across it. I was so lucky to find all the right people that inspired me and a new performance pathway appeared.
What advice would you give to performers looking to learn circus arts or aspire to become a circus performer?
GO FOR IT! Circus has a place for everyone. Try everything. Get inspired by artists, past or present, and find what it is you love.
Interview by Lucy Basaba.
Scotch and Soda is currently showing at London Wonderground until Sunday 2nd August. For more information on the production, visit here…