On Monday night, Malcolm Hardee Award winner Becky Fury is presenting a show called Waiting For Guido at the Cockpit Theatre in London. It is billed as:
“Fusing comic improvisation from world class performers, a little sprinkling of circus performance and an improvised musical score. This is Jesus and the Easter bunny waiting for the return of the enigmatic and insurrectionary battery chicken, Guido. In a basic story structure inspired by Waiting for Godot, Dada and Alan Moore’s V for Vendetta, we present an evening of entertainment, theatrical innovation and carefully curated chaos.”
As well as comics Trevor Lock, Johnathan Richardson, Geoff Steel and Becky, there is music by a house band featuring Bang Crosby and aerial acts from “contortionist and rope and hoop expert” Avital Hannah.
Aerial acts? I thought. Aerial acts? So I went to the National Centre for Circus Arts in London to see Becky and Avital talk through and swing through what might be happening on Monday.
JOHN: So what is Waiting For Guido?
BECKY: It’s basically a cabaret show with some theatrical comedy vignettes. A contemporary freakshow inspired by Principa Discordia and the Dogme manifesto. This one’s more Catme but I always have to be so extra. Everything’s not so much falling into place but descending in beautiful yet bizarre shapes and landing elegantly in place.
JOHN: What’s the narrative?
JOHN: What is Avi doing? Just hanging around?
AVI: Hanging from the rafters.
BECKY: She will be mirroring some of the characters in the show. Everyone has a character. It’s a hybrid cabaret comedy circus show.
JOHN: Why did you decide being an aerial artist was a good career choice?
AVI: I kind of decided on a whim… I had gone to college to study law, psychology, philosophy and critical thinking. I thought: There’s a future for me as an aerial artist because I’m highly-strung and not very good at letting go. And I thought: If I go to circus school then I can do what I want but I still get a qualification.
JOHN: Did the glamour of circus attract you?
JOHN: So what was the attraction?
AVI: The ownership of my own body.
JOHN: Define that.
AVI: It was really positive for reclaiming my body as a woman. I had often felt it was ‘owned’ by other people. I’m definitely in control of it now. It will always be more useful to me than anyone else. Before circus, that had not necessarily always been apparent.
JOHN: ‘Being in control of your own body’ sounds like it might overlap into hatred of men.
AVI: Well, to some extent I think it’s a feminist answer but I think it’s just as a human I have my right to own my own body and this has enabled me to do so.
JOHN: Where is the career in being an aerial artist outside a circus? You can’t play the upstairs room of a suburban pub.
AVI: No, but there’s corporate gigs, the corporate circuit at Christmas time, charity gigs, Council things and it’s more integrated into theatre and dance than it used to be. There are circus shows in the West End. There’s TV and film stuff. It’s quite broad; you’ve just gotta know where to look.
JOHN: Corporate gigs?
AVI: Making posh people’s parties look cooler. If you can get someone to hang off the ceiling, it looks good.
JOHN: Is there a career path?
AVI: I’m interested in the production side. I’m really interested in production management and directing, producing.
JOHN: How do you two know each other?
BECKY: From festivals. The DIY culture. The Unfairground stage at the Glastonbury Festival.
JOHN: There is a lot of twirling involved in what you do.
AVI: I find it easier to learn things on the left. It’s generally easier to rotate one way. I generally spin to the right but there are certain tricks that require me to spin to the left and that’s fine; it’s just a different type of training.
JOHN: Is that something to do with the left side of your brain controlling the right side of the body and vice versa?
AVI: I don’t know, but there are certain things you can do to make them talk to each other a bit better.
JOHN: Such as?”
AVI: Stand up and stand on one leg with your eyes closed and then try standing on the other leg. You will be better doing it on one side than the other. Then open your eyes and bring your thumb towards them until it’s uncomfortable to see it and do that three times. Keep your thumb really steady while doing it. Then try standing on one leg again. It should be way more even between left and right. It tricks your brain somehow.
BECKY: It must realign everything into a balance because you have to focus on the thumb straight-on rather than left and right sides and one of your eyes being lazy.
AVI: I don’t know. It seems to work.
JOHN: Have you got public liability insurance if you fall on someone?
AVI: Only if I’m performing. Not in normal life.
BECKY: Everyone should have it. A friend of mine was performing at a Secret Policeman’s Ball show. He threw rice during the show and someone slipped on a grain of rice in their stiletto shoe and broke their ankle. Luckily he had public liability insurance, because they sued him.
JOHN: Why are your powdering your ear?
AVI: I always put make-up on my ear lobes before a show. You don’t want red ears when you go upside down. Blood goes to them when you are upside down.
JOHN: Ah… Why are you in Becky’s show? It’s basically a comedy show.
AVI: It’s different. I wanna see what happens.
JOHN: Yes indeed.