Q&A/The Festival Sessions/Circus

A counter-balancing act

15 January 2020

A single piece of rope, 30 metres long and hung between two pulleys, is the only piece of equipment in aerial acrobatic show By a Thread. The magic ingredient, the one that enables the performers to fly, is simple.

Presented by Melbourne ensemble One Fell Swoop Circus, By a Thread will return to Fringe World this month. Ahead of the work’s encore season, co-director and performer Charice Rust explains what makes this show soar.

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Seesaw: What is the philosophy behind your circus ensemble One Fell Swoop?
Charice Rust:
In our work we aim to connect with audiences on a level deeper than spectacle, to give them an intimate experience of acrobatics. They might never actually try to climb a rope themselves, but I’m certain everyone has had a moment in their life where they have felt that they are struggling to hang on, to pull themselves up, bit by bit, to keep aiming higher. Even though acrobatics might seem so out of the ordinary, we try to relate to people’s lives through this show. This also means letting them share in the joy you can get out of throwing yourself, acrobatically or figuratively, into someone else’s arms.

Charice Rust

S: You first brought By a Thread to Fringe World in 2017. What brings you back in 2020?
Fringe World was the first festival we took By a Thread to, so we were super excited to be asked by the Festival to headline their new hub at the Girls School in 2020. We can’t wait to perform our show in a 1930s Egyptian art deco old girls school that looks like a castle! Fringe World, its atmosphere, its variety, its adventurous audiences, has a special place in our hearts.

S: Tell us about By a Thread.
In By a Thread we use a single piece of rope, 30 metres long. This rope hangs down like two ropes in a gym. However instead of being rigged to the roof, our rope is hung between two pulleys and so the two ropes become a counterweight system. If an acrobat climbs one of the ropes, the rest of the ensemble must provide an equal force on the other rope to keep them from falling. Instead of rigging and hardware, it is the hands and muscles of the ensemble that keep each other in the air. This was such a perfect physical manifestation of relationship or connectedness that we built our whole show about relating to others. The audience follows the performers through moments of confusion, hilarity, romance, playfulness, fear and friendship.

S: Who will enjoy By a Thread?
By a Thread will appeal to anyone attracted to the spectacle of circus, but who is also looking for a slightly cooler, more artsy experience. By a Thread is definitely appropriate for all ages and is a great night out for all.

S: Tell us about the creative/rehearsal process for the show…
We spend a lot of time getting to know the apparatus itself – the system of rope and pulleys is quite unique and sometimes feels like another (particularly cheeky) ensemble member. We have a great acrobatic blooper reel of mishaps with the rope which you can find on our Facebook page.

We work very hard trying to be graceful and coordinated doing acrobatics, but of course with live performance, sometimes things happen and you get someone else’s sweat in your mouth.

S: What are you looking forward to seeing/doing at Fringe World
We can’t wait to get out in Fringe World and see our performer friends doing what they do best. Fringe World brings together our performer community from touring all over the country and the globe. It’s a great time. We’re also looking forward to being audience members in some of our favourite shows like Casting Off by A Good Catch, and Yuck Circus.

S: What is your favourite playground equipment?
Ropes (duh!)

By a Thread plays Main Hall at Girls School, 21 January – 9 February, 2020.

The Fringe Sessions” is an annual series of Q&A interviews with artists who will be appearing at Fringe World. Stay tuned for more!

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Author —
Nina Levy

Nina Levy has worked as an arts writer and critic since 2007. She co-founded Seesaw and has been co-editing the platform since it went live in August 2017. As a freelancer she has written extensively for The West Australian and Dance Australia magazine, co-editing the latter from 2016 to 2019. Nina loves the swings because they take her closer to the sky.

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