One of my favourite performers Donald Grant, once remarked to me how performing his act felt ‘like putting on an old pair of comfy slippers’.
I’m starting to get to a similar point with my act. I know that despite external conditions I’m still capable of shipping my art and delivering the goods (although I’m still capable of screwing them up as well!). No stairs to get on stage? No Worries. Wrong music comes on? On with the show.
Once you’ve done your act several 100 times it starts to become a little less stressful, you start to trust your work a little more. You can refine detail and perhaps enjoy yourself a little more.
In a podcast Penn Jillette reminded me that acts that have worked for 20 years have a quality, maturity and refinement that can’t be taught and is rare to see these days. You can really see this with performers such as George Carl.
These ‘mature acts’ obviously made and make incremental changes over time and I enjoy following acts and watching how they subtly evolve. A new line here, an extra trick there – it’s a circus spot the difference.
However the danger is stagnation, it’s probably not as artistically rewarding for most performers to do the same material year in year out. And times have changed, there isn’t the market demand for such refinement yet lack of flexibility. Modern circus artists need slightly different skills, the ability to constantly create new work, collaborate (often cross discipline) and push the art form in new directions.
It’s not something that I’m not particularly suited for or good at. Yet I’m pushing myself onwards. I like having my comfy slippers but I know at some point I’ll need some brogues, trainers and even a pair of Crocs. After all, slippers do wear out – eventually.
Enough of the shoe analogies, I'm off to the cobblers.