Today marks the beginning of a month long celebration of all things Circus, Film, Visual Theatre, Physical Theatre and Puppetry. The London International Mime Festival has been championing leading voices in a range of theatrical disciplines for 4 decades now, and shows no signs of slowing down. A total of 18 shows promise to surprise, inspire and bring a sense of daring with their individual perspectives on the world. Theatrefullstop were able to speak with Joint Artistic Director of Ockham’s Razor, Charlotte Mooney who will be presenting Tipping Point at this year’s festival about the festival’s importance within the theatre world, how Tipping Point was created and the audience’s reactions to the show so far!
Hi Charlotte, Ockham’s Razor will be performing their new piece, Tipping Point at this year’s London International Mime Festival. How are you feeling ahead of the event?
We’re very excited. We’ve been developing the show with a very close ensemble over the last year and had our first performances in November. We only really learn about what we have made once we start to play it in front of an audience and see which parts come to life. We try to remain open to the promise of how a show can develop from what the audience discover in it. In December we went back into the rehearsal room to pull together the final strands in the light of the autumn shows then went and had a good long Christmas break. Now we’re back, rested, a few pounds heavier and raring to play to an audience again.
Could you explain what Tipping Point is about?
It’s about challenge – the challenges that you pit yourself against or that you lay down for others. It’s about the different strategies we use to cope with the challenges that life throws at us – whether we rail and battle against them or find a way to move through them.
The show is set within a ring of salt and chalk, reminiscent of the traditional circus ring but also of sumo, wrestling and other ritualised sparring grounds. We’re very interested in how the circle crops up in every time and culture in some ritualised form as a place to test strength, or ideas, meditation or magic, a way to contain and play with power. The 5 performers pass challenges back and forth using a series of metal poles that are climbed on, balanced, rotated, spun and hung.
It’s about the joy and thrill of launching yourself towards the unknown and the possible encounters with fear, pain, vulnerability, success or defeat.
Tipping Point made its debut in October 2015, what have reactions been towards the show so far?
We’ve had wonderfully warm reactions through our first run of shows in Harlow, Salford, Newcastle and Lincoln. Some heartening comments on social media and in post show discussions with the audience. The feedback we get from audiences (good and bad) is incredibly valuable as they see it completely fresh which we never can.
You are joint Artistic Director of Ockham’s Razor, alongside fellow company members Alex Harvey and Tina Koch. How did you approach creating Tipping Point?
The relationships and stories in our shows are told through the physical interaction between performers and essentially a moving set. With each show, we design original structures which are part of the action. For Tipping Point we wanted to set ourselves the challenge of finding the simplest elements possible. I am always thrilled at watching the inventiveness of a performance which transforms a simple object. So we started with a metal pole and all the things we could find to do with it. From there it was a short step to realising we needed to set the action in a circle. It was the circle that the pole makes when it is spun: it was a response to the pole – another aspect of it, but also wonderful because with the performers enclosed within the circle the action became very contained, intimate for the audience but also with a real sense of danger for the performer. A circle is also such a potent, rich symbol it fuelled the meaning of the show.
From there it was a matter of casting a strong ensemble of diverse personalities and seeing what we discovered by playing together. We spend a long time creating movement material and keeping the ideas open. Eventually we draw sketches of all that we have and see what we have unearthed. We try to get our heads out of the way and see what the elements in the room have made.
Ockham’s Razor is an eclectic theatre company, merging the disciplines of Aerial work, Circus and Visual Theatre to realise the human experience. What inspired this challenging of traditional Circus?
That’s an interesting choice of words. I don’t think we do consider ourselves as challenging traditional circus. We think that there are strong, clear and deeply moving relationships, emotions and stories within the physical movement of circus. What we aim to do is to draw out what is already there rather than putting a story or theme on top of the movement – adding a bit of theatre to some circus. I think the best of traditional circus also does this. Of course there are a lot of superficial trashy trad acts, but there is also a purity in some where you watch a performer you identify with themselves against an impossible feat, a vulnerable human who fails, fails but ultimately succeeds. Our work is not so very different.
The London International Mime Festival is celebrated for showcasing an international line up of circus performers, physical theatre artists and visual theatre performers that perhaps wouldn’t be readily accessible throughout the year. How important are festivals like this in the theatre world?
I don’t think it would be too much to say that The London International Mime Festival has been the single most important cultural event in my life. It inspired me to go into making visual theatre before I even knew there was a thing called contemporary circus. They gave us our first big performance platform when they booked our show The Triple Bill at The Linbury that exposure really enabled us to grow from being a small emerging company. And I have seen countless inspiring, eye opening and mind boggling shows over the years which I can’t imagine I would ever have encountered otherwise. They give a vital platform to work which transforms performance and work that though it often flies under the radar in time comes to revive the mainstream.
Will you be watching any fellow artists at this year’s festival? If so, what shows are you looking forward to watching?
Ah man, there are so many shows I am dying to see in this year’s line up, Joss Houben & Marcello Magni, Trygve Wakenshaw, Vantournhout & Lievens, Compagnie Yoann Bourgeois amongst many others. However, Alex and I have an 8 month old baby and Tina the other director has a 10 month old baby so I think this year our show watching is going to be lamentably restricted. The Royal Court has just announced that it is doing parent baby showings of its plays, I’m looking forward to this becoming common practice in the UK theatre scene.
What advice would you give to aspiring Artistic Directors and Circus and Physical Theatre artists?
Through all the different shows we have made we have discovered more and more about ourselves, about what kind of makers we are, about what we see in the world. I think there is often this onus on creating “a brilliant piece of work”. But really the most interesting thing is watching yourself over time, seeing how you evolve.
Ockham’s Razor will present Tipping Point at the Platform Theatre from Monday 11th until Saturday 23rd January 2016 as part of the year’s London International Mime Festival. For more information on the production, visit here…