By Mark Boskell
The WA Circus Festival is on again this weekend. I got my first taste of the festival last year whilst photographing it for Margaret River Tourism and was blown away by the vibe of the whole thing and the amazing acts. Another great international event happening right here in our backyard. I asked the gang at Lunar Circus a few quick questions about what's in store this year.
For those that haven’t attended before, how would you describe the festival?
It's a 3 day event that happens just out of Karridale, south of Margaret River. There are shows running from midday to midnight on all 3 days. There are circus, comedy and cabaret shows from around the world. There are big shows, small shows, funny shows and moving shows, shows by international performers and shows by Australian performers, award-winning shows and debut shows, in fact there are shows for everyone. There is even the Circus Olympics! It's amazing what these people can do. There is a dedicated kids big top with workshops all day as well as great music, great food, market stalls, several bars, camping and Australia's longest high wire walk!
Live bands and DJ’s play for most of the day and take you dancing late into the night. There are several bars around the site, including some that open during particular shows such as the Adults Only Late Night Cabaret.
There’s a delightful feeling about the festival. Everyone is happy, relaxed and having a great time. People always tell us, “I had no idea what to expect but this is absolutely amazing!”
How do you put together the programme and find all the performers for the festival?
The festival director Matt Yates is responsible for putting together the programme. He attends festivals throughout Europe during our Australian winter and meets a lot of performers there. He invites the good ones!
Performers who have been here previously spread the word everywhere they go, both in Australia and overseas, therefore we also receive a lot of applications via our online performer application.
Matt reviews all the applications, which takes a long time, then selects a good mix for the festival. We like to have something for everyone.
What shows are you most looking forward to seeing this year?
William the Great is performing exclusively at our festival. They’ve put together a really fabulous show but once our festival is finished their troupe will disband. We’ve seen a preview and we like it a LOT so we’re excited about this show.
Chris Lynam is hosting a couple of late night cabarets and also has his own solo show. He’s a comic genius so he is definitely on our must see list. The things he says are completely unexpected and we’ve already seen our pre-festival cabaret audiences in tears with laughter.
What’s the most daring or dangerous performance at the festival?
The High Wire Act is pretty dangerous, especially if it’s windy. The performers are 10m above the ground and they’re not harnessed to any kind of safety belt. It’s the longest high wire walk in Australia.
A lot of the acts have an element of danger, it’s part of the nature of the genre. Circus performers can and do break bones and/or end up in wheelchairs. We’ve had some close calls here over the years but thankfully nothing really serious.
And the most technical or difficult?
Contemporary jugglers are pushing new boundaries of technical expertise. The really good young jugglers devote their whole life to their skill, and the nature of the juggling community is such that they inspire and push each other to invent new, extraordinarily difficult tricks. They attend juggling conventions all over the world where they juggle for 12-14 hours a day - learning, sharing and totally nerding out on juggling. The things these youngsters do are completely out of reach to the average professional juggler that’s been making a living from his craft for decades.
You have a campground on the property, what happens when the kids go to bed?
We are becoming famous for our Adults Only Late Night Cabaret, and for very good reason. Where else will you see a performer play the recorder with her vagina? Fanny farts have never been put to such good use.
We always think that people miss out if they don’t stay till the end of the programme. A lot of our really great acts are on after the kids go to bed, for obvious reasons.
Best way to experience the festival?
The late night is where things really come alive , so get right into it by camping for the full 3 days. There is nothing better than being able to wander back to your tent after watching the late shows. The stars shine brightly and the sound of music and revelry gradually fade into the background as you approach your camp. You’ve had a few drinks, you’ve laughed yourself sick, and you don’t have to drive anywhere. Everything feels right with the world.
In the morning you wake up and you’re living at the circus. The performers you’ve seen the night before are sitting around eating breakfast and you can grab a coffee and join them for a chat.
Any interesting stories from previous years?
We’re pretty excited about our brand new big top. We’ve called it the Lunar Sensation and it’s twice as big as our other big top. It will fit more people into the really popular shows, including the Late Night Cabaret. It was manufactured in Nannup, naturally. Where else would you go to get a massive new big top?
We seem to be a gestation hub for relationships – we’re losing count of the number of people that have found the love of their life at our festival! We have a month long training project that happens before the festival and we find that living and working together has a way of bringing people together.