TW Talks Tuesday: An Interview With Charice Rust

Contemporary circus company, One Fell Swoop are set to wow audiences with their new innovative show, Kilter, as part of the Melbourne Fringe Festival. The show will see company co-founders, Charice Rust and Jonathan Morgan, using a never before seen apparatus to perform cutting-edge acrobatics. One Fell Swoop have brought in Melbourne-based violinist beatsmith ORCHA, who will be creating a stunning live music score to accompany the show.

With Kilter exploring how we strive to maintain balance in the constantly changing world that we live in, the name of the show came to the company quite easily.

CR: We often think of balance as a static state – two balanced sides, locked in place by each other, not moving. Balance is considered something you find and then you have. But for us standing on a slackrope, balance is a never-ending series of adjustments. It is constant adaption and persistent corrections. You don’t find your balance, you fight for it continuously. In this performance we aim to explore this idea and what it can elucidate about the everyday.

Rather than using a story or narrative to drive the action, Kilter aims to engage its audience through its exploration of a central idea with acts revolving about finding an equilibrium in our lives.

CR: Circus skills and apparatus are rich in meaning in themselves and we aim to draw these meanings out for the audience so they are invited to explore the intrinsic metaphors within circus and to relate to them on a personal level. In Kilter, we use a chiastic structure, where the arc of the show is made up of complementary or opposing links between pairs of acts. This then allows us to explore dichotomies and similarities and to unpack a single concept in depth.

CR: We love the challenge of making the audience relate to something that isn’t necessarily narrative. In Kilter we are incorporating concepts from physics and science together with ideas described in Albert Camus’ essay The Myth of Sisyphus. We bring the mechanics of our apparatus and physical work to the fore, and give the audience an appreciation of the rich semantic web of how circus relates to life: the balance in motion, tipping points, clarity in focus, and the precariousness of being still in turbulence.

With regards to the apparatus, One Fell Swoop have put together a “Slackboat”, where instead of a normal slackrope rig that is attached to the floor and rigged to the spot, two arcs of curved steel tube have been placed under the rope that introduces a new rolling dimension to the apparatus.

CR: By pulling apart and modifying various circus apparatus, we have acts that look starkly different to what audiences might be familiar with. With the shifting and tilting of the slackboat, the audience can more clearly understand the mechanics of balancing on a dynamic object that is six metres long and rocks to about five metres high. Just seeing it is enough to take our breath away.

Music is also an integral part of the show, with a serendipitous encounter between One Fell Swoop and ORCHA.

CR: We met ORCHA at a performing arts market where we were both pitching our other shows, and we just loved his unique and beautiful sound along with his calm and powerful stage presence. He’d always wanted to compose for circus so the collaboration came together in a wonderful happenstance way. It is thrilling to work with a live musician, especially one as talented at ORCHA. ORCHA makes a universe of sounds all from the violin. We are so often amazed at what sounds come from ORCHA and his violin during our rehearsals!

It is always thrilling for audiences to see circus performers in acts that require them to be flung into the air or balance on objects high up from the ground. These artists are performing acts that we can only ever dream about and also acts that put them at risk of serious injury. But are they as dangerous as they appear?

CR: One of the best aspects of circus is that it doesn’t ask the audience to suspend disbelief – if someone is hanging by their foot several metres up in the air, then that’s what is happening. This authenticity is very important to us. We are not trained actors, and we don’t exaggerate the fact that we are doing things that are physically difficult and risky. Whilst we have trained and practised each skill many times, we still have to execute them under performance pressure.

Kilter is honest in the fact that it lets the audience in, so we hold our breaths together, as we balance on one foot on the rope. The apparatus swings out over the audience and connects the space between audience and performer, resulting in a very unique experience for all of us.


Read more about Kilter here.

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