Adrian Berry on Transmission 2015

Thu 6 Aug 5PM

I've just been sat in our theatre for the last 30 minutes watching an amazing transformation and use of the space. Everything stripped back to black, bare walls, poles, ropes, pulleys… in the corner a bank of electronic instruments, three studious young men observing the movement and the moment, reacting with the bleeps and flashes of new technology. A lone performer lifted up and down on a counterweight effortlessly, ten French artists above, below and around me shouting, smiling, concentrating. Striving for magic.

This is Transmission at Jacksons Lane, our annual circus residency programme which is running for the third year. I often get frustrated at those rather smug people shouting about how much they love their jobs, as not everyone has that privilege, but today I also feel that way. I needed a break from writing contracts (the bane of my life) so snuck downstairs and into the theatre to watch Compagnie Animotion – all the way from France, working on their new piece which we will share with the public this Friday afternoon. As I took my seat on the aisle – the sole audience member - straight away I was transported, and I found myself lost in their dark, ambient world for half an hour. And then I decided I needed to write about it.

I got into circus through the back door in 1993. My only experience had been a low-budget big top in my home town as a child. Then in 1993 I found myself at the age of 24 in a south London venue working alongside the company Mamaloucos on site-specific performances and the birth of ‘new' circus as it was known. I met – and was in awe of (although I never tell him)  – Jean-Paul Zaccarini – and hung out with the likes of the dark clown Pacco and the astonishing aerialists Concussion – Lou and Lyla. It changed my life, and led to me programming such amazing artists as Legs on the Wall, Matilda Leyser and Lyndsey Butcher, who happily is also in our theatre with the French artists as I write. What goes around...So 22 years later, sat in our theatre on a Wednesday afternoon, I was thrown back to that time and place and realised I still get the same shivers, thrills and wonderment, especially now being able to be a part of the creation of such amazing new work.

It’s been a long journey to get to this point for me and the Jacksons Lane team. Almost nine years since I asked the board here to take the leap of faith and let me slowly start the journey down the circus road. I sometimes wonder if they think I am a little bit crazy. ‘Sorry, no shows for two months, I want to give the theatre to a load of circus artists to do whatever they want’. But there is always a plan behind it, and I know that out of this year’s companies at least one of them, and hopefully more, will be performing their new work and touring with us in the future. It’s a long process, but we try and stay by their side every step of the way.

For Transmission 2015 we have six companies experimenting in our building – with absolutely no pressure. We give them exclusive use of our theatre and technical team to do whatever they wish, to create, experiment, play, achieve, and even fail. We don’t promote their sharings as shows. They don’t even have to perform if they don’t want to (but they usually do). After the craziness of last month when we produced the new Silver Lining show and then ran into fourteen nights of our Postcards festival, it’s so good to be able to back away from all the noise and chaos, exciting as it is, and to just help artists create. For the next eight weeks we will be a hub of internationalism – circus artists from Germany, Australia, Finland, Sweden and even the UK. It’s a time for us to take stock and think about what we do and how we do it. We’ve really put ourselves on the line here at Jacksons Lane and unashamedly and proudly tell the word that we are (in the words of Sideshow Magazine) A Home For Circus. We hope you can enter our house this Summer and share in our wondrous creations.  

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