I’m writing from Wauchope NSW, home for a few weeks at the end of the Australian tour of TWENTYSIXTEEN. I’ve been away quite a while now, with Circus Oz being based in Melbourne, and this tour taking us from Victoria into South Australia, through the Northern Territory, across to Western Australia and then to Tasmania before returning to Victoria. On 8 October we performed the final two shows in Bendigo’s lovely new Ulumbarra Theatre.
We’ve covered a lot of ground: 12,500km in Steve’s new truck, 11 flights and a fleet of hire cars. Around 70 shows in 20 different places, 20 safety rehearsals and 20 ‘fake shows’, which is how we’ve come to describe the tech/dress rehearsal we do in each new venue. These are important, but it is a challenge to perform without an audience. After you’ve done a show so many times, you feel like you know it inside out, so you need to remind yourself that with every new theatre something will change. The walls will be closer, the stage will be longer, the lights will be in different places. Every performance will be unique.
I’m the rigger for the show so I’m responsible for the aerial equipment – securing, safety and operation during the performance. At Circus Oz I also actually get to participate in the show. I play saxophone with the band, I’m a stagehand, and for some of the aerial acts I’m a human counterweight. I climb up and down a ladder on the side of the stage to lift the performers. I’m usually heavier than them – Sharon is half my weight so I have to be careful not to drop like a stone and fling her into the audience – but when there are three women on the trapeze I flip upside down and climb head-first down the ladder, pushing with my legs to raise them into the air. You could do this with a winch but I think this old-fashioned technique allows for more control and finesse.
Circus Oz tried a new rigging model for this tour. Instead of two riggers – a show rigger and another rigger to assist in the bump-ins and bump-outs – I work with a rigging crew (we have matching overalls). Three or four of the performers and the touring show director work with me to build the big arch rig we have on stage and break it down after the last show. I’m happy with how this worked out. I enjoy the bump-ins and bump-outs almost as much as the performances. It’s a pleasure to work with such a small, capable group on a shared task. We got better at it too, faster and smoother. The bump-in and bump-out in Bendigo took less than half the time of our first efforts.
When I get back from this break, I’ll be working on the debut show from Circus Oz’s new artistic director Rob Tannion, to be premiered next year. This is really exciting. While on tour we got snippets of news about this new show, and the ideas fermenting back in Collingwood while we’re off touring the country. I’m looking forward to being back ringside, getting involved in the creative process and seeing what I can bring to the mix.
Ryan the rigger - 30th October 2016