Circus Performer Clarke MacFarlane, A.K.A Mario Queen of the Circus speaks to Theatrefullstop about this year’s La Soirée!

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If you’re looking for the unconventional, the amazing, the unapologetically daring this Christmas season, then La Soirée promises to tick all of these boxes. Renowned for its eclectic line up of aerialists, jugglers, contortionists, hula hoopers… the list goes on, the Olivier award winning circus variety show has garnered praise both nationally and internationally. This year’s line up witnesses yet another impressive assortment of creatives, including the multi talented performer, Clarke MacFarlane, A.K.A Mario Queen of the Circus whose expertise in juggling, unicycling and comic timing, have seen the Freddy Mercury inspired performer create a unique stamp on the circus world. Ahead of La Soirée‘s Christmas run,  Theatrefullstop were able to speak to Clarke about the importance of showcasing diversity within the circus world, his inspirations for training in the circus arts and why London is his favourite place to perform.

You’re currently starring in hit show, La Soirée at the Spiegeltent on the South Bank. How is it going so far?

It has been a wild ride. The tent lost power at the start of one of our previews and we had to go unplugged for a spell. The audience was unbelievably patient. And then on our opening night Brian May came to the show. So really it’s been business as usual in the topsy-turvy, never-a-dull-moment world of La Soirée.

How would you sum up La Soirée in a sentence?

You mean like: For the crime of being the most delicious, hilarious and amazing variety show, I sentence La Soirée to run indefinitely! …?

La Soirée is an Olivier award winning show, and has received critical acclaim from both reviewers and audiences alike. Does this add any pressure to the performances?

No, I think the pressure has always been there in healthy amounts. It comes from a combination of the audience’s excitement and our own will to be as good as, or better than, the night before. We can’t get our heads caught up in anything too far outside the task at hand.

La Soirée consists of a variety of acts showcasing their unique talents. How important are shows like these in highlighting the diversity of circus arts?

I think people see the classic types of acts they might expect but presented at a faster pace and with possibly a more modern feel to them. I hope people walk away and go, ‘I had no idea I liked juggling!’ That said, there are also unique surprises. Great care is taken to make these diverse acts hang together in a seamless parade that can march under the same banner.

Your alter ego, Mario Queen of the Circus is noted for being a fan of legendary rock band, Queen, with this creating a stand out feature of Mario’s performances. What inspired the inclusion of Queen songs in all performances, and Mario’s Freddie Mercury-esque appearance?

The music itself first and foremost was the inspiration. It is at once theatrical, hard rocking and beautiful. Freddie is one of the greatest performers of all time and should be an inspiration to anyone who walks on stage. I started ironically juxtaposing their epic greatness and my circus silliness dressed in leather on the small stages of New York bars about 10 years ago and let the audience mould it from there. I would never have imagined Brian May himself would ever hear of, let alone watch my act. Thanks, La Soirée!

Your act is very versatile in that you are a juggler, unicyclist and comedian. What inspired you to train in these disciplines?

Don’t forget Hula Hooper! …Sort of. I’ve always loved the variety arts and the performers that inspire me are ones that steer clear of being a purist in any one discipline. Playing to my strengths, I strive to combine and recombine skills to make something novel. Yes, that’s right, I said it, I’m a ‘novelty act’ and proud!

Mario Queen of the Circus has travelled the world, with performances gracing Europe, Australia, North America and South Africa. What are audience responses like in the UK, as well as internationally?

London is my favourite place to perform. Many people speak English here, you love a good time and you share my ironic sense of humour. I also love the challenge of playing in different cultural landscapes. I do my act in French, German, Italian and Spanish and it’s always a fascinating process to reach the crowd speaking a foreign language. I find it very interesting how some of the humour doesn’t translate at times.

What advice would you give to aspiring circus performers?

I often say, ‘Take every opportunity to perform and to watch shows. Make every choice available to you to make your act very specific and choose things that connect to you personally. The audience’s attention and deep engagement with what you’re doing should be your number one goal and there are an infinite number of ways of getting there. Be wary of the pressure to reproduce the current artistic trends. Add to the conversation and don’t repeat what the last person said. “Hey, pay attention when I’m talking to you! Where are you going!?” And then they go do whatever they want.

Interview by Lucy Basaba.

La Soirée is currently showing at the Spiegeltent at the Southbank Centre until Sunday 17th January. For more information on the production, visit here…

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