An average day 2

A year ago I recorded an average November day, here’s an update…

I’m currently touring with Smashed in France so things are a little more hectic than my average London days -mainly lots of traveling and very few good coffees to be found. :-/

My 16th of November 2013 was reasonably standard for a touring schedule, perhaps a little heavy on the travel side:

7:00 Get up
7:15 Taxi to train station
8:06 Train 1.5 hours
9:45 Coach 2.5 hours
11:20 Car pick up – drive to hotel
11:35 Hotel – Juggling in my room, read.
13:00 Lunch in a local restaurant
14:00 Hotel – emails & rest
16:00 Theatre – juggling practice
19:00 Meal local restaurant
20:00 warmup & set
21:00 Show
23:00 Hotel – sleep

I wonder how my day will look in a years time…

Waiting for Godot

Marilyn waits too...

My name is Luke. I am a professional waiter.

I arrived at the venue at 3.30pm for my 4pm rehearsal. At 4.30pm I was finished.

Now it’s 6.30pm. The show starts at 8pm. My act is at the start of the second half.

I should start my make-up when the show starts.

Right now, there are thousands of performers all around the world doing exactly what I am doing now.

Together, in our own way and in our own places, we wait.

Does this connect us all on some level? The juggler in Berlin with the snake-charmer in Mumbai? The trapeze artist in Moscow with the preacher in New Guinea?

Breathing, sleeping, reading, stretching – thousands of us, spread across the globe in whatever passes in that particular locale for a “backstage”.

How exhilarating that realisation is! I am not alone! As I type these words, I can imagine a shared consciousness, a body of experience shared between performers of all races, faiths, and skills. Connected by the act, by the art, of waiting. But not mere everyday, amateur passive waiting – waiting not for a bus, not for a train or in a queue, but waiting for the moment of stepping onto the stage, of stepping into a more “real” reality. Waiting for the moment of transformation!

I am sorry. I think I have too much time on my hands…

Luke Wilson, in a backstage in Berlin. Waiting.

Building a new act.

Exciting times. After about 8 years with more or less the same material I’m about to make drastic changes. I have always built my acts after the same pattern. Lately I have found myself completely bored by that form.

• A piece of music. Composed for the act.
• A choreography set to that music.
• Music finished. Finale trick, take a bow and outro music.
• Exit

Simple but boring. I want to make something different. Or new. New to me. I want to use music but I want to edit exciting music to fit my act. In this way I’m going to have the possibilities of jumping between tempos and different pieces of music and add moments of recognition to the audience. I can use the music to change characters. I can go from a happy energetic persona to a pompous figure or what ever.
I can change “skill”. Blablabla.

I have to excuse my language earlier. Its not that its boring to make a choreography to a set piece of music. Its just that I need to do something with my material to find the joy again. To completely change route.
I used to get really excited about making a start at a new act. 8 years ago when I constructed the act that I now so badly want to change I was super excited and the ideas came flying. And it worked well. I have done that act for about 1500 times.

And now its time to move on.
But how do I start? It would be great to use this blog and its readers and writers to get some input and inspiration. How do YOU set everything up when you start with a new piece? Id like to hear your thoughts about it. Lets create together.

I stop now. I wanted to write about my method and about my idea. It turned out I have a wage idea and NO method. So I need a discussion with you guys. Give me your tips and your secrets : )
I’m going on tour now. For a year. But Internet is everywhere so lets meet there.


Spent a couple of days in Cairo, didn’t have net access ( think if I’d the choice between free water or free wifi, I’d go for free wifi most of the time!) so I’m writing this in the airport waiting for my flight home and won’t be able to post it till I get back. Waste of time, maybe?

Stuff floating in my head….
Taxi driving
Social ladders
Rubbish in the street
Middle classes
The sun
Political unrest
No photos of the police
Empty oil drums
Golf courses
Smoky bars
Unfinished houses
Mix grill feasts
Empty plane…


Technology Tips for Circus Artists – 7

In this series of posts I’m going to give tips on using technology to make your hours behind your desk that bit easier.

Tip Number seven: Use YouTube

When YouTube started to attract attention less than six years ago I was skeptical, even a little fearful. I made a video in early 2006 which was uploaded to YouTube and attracted 70,000 views and was featured on the home page, all within 4 days and without my knowledge (and most importantly) my permission.

But 5 years later and I’m a total YouTube convert. It’s quickly become the industry standard for sharing work with agents and clients, replacing DVD as arguably the best way to share your work.

There is a great feature you might not be aware of, setting your video as unlisted. This means the video can’t be found by anyone who does not know the url which you can distribute as wish.

You can rename the title of the video once it’s uploaded os get rid of that ugly ‘whateveryourtitleis’.mp4 extension!

For promo videos it’s best to have your url link in the first line of the description with the full http:// included so it becomes an active hyperlink to your site.

Read more YouTube tips here.

Also worth remembering is jTV, a site setup for juggling videos but also contains some great historical circus videos.



The dreaded question….

First my throat slightly contracts, then I can’t help but breath out a sigh and my eyes sink towards the floor. “I’m a circus artist” I reply.

I know my body language and tone could easily be misinterpreted as embarrassment, but unfortunately the emotion I’m trying to hide is not embarrassment, not even modesty. If it were, I could hope that the questioner would see my distress and move on to something else. Instead my interrogator jumps at the thread and pulls as hard as they can forcing me to unravel the conversation which is almost as rehearsed and practiced as my act. It’s not their fault, it’s mine. I shouldn’t have a job that sparks off so much interest, seems so wacky and unlikely from the outside and yet so normal to me. Perhaps these encounters are a fresh chance to remind myself how lucky I am to have a job I love.

Instead they just depress me a little. I’m good at opinions, I’m not good at anecdotes or jokes. That’s a hang up I have and one I’m constantly trying to change, but for now this is where I am. It’s hard to get opinion in a conversation about a topic which one half is almost entirely ignorant. That’s not a criticism on them, why on earth should they know about the differences in what I do and what Ronald McDonald or Cirque du Soleil does? It just makes it difficult for someone as socially unskilled as I to connect to someone in this particular conversation in any meaningful way. I know this because I have had this conversation 100’s of times; it either results in an uncomfortable parting or my other tactic – change the subject as soon as possible. I know some artists thrive at the chance to engage in this type of interaction, driving the conversation about themselves and enthralling onlookers, as if the conversation is a performance and a chance for the performer to shine.

I can’t criticize too much, I’m a performer by trade and writing a blog about my experiences and thoughts. However I like to think my ego is slightly different from this type of need for attention. But then everyone always thinks their particular brand of ego is unique. I suspect I just have a bad attitude towards the whole thing, perhaps I should say I’m a chartered accountant when asked, “What do you do for a living?”.

Note: I wrote this in 2009. I recently came across Derren Browns stunning read “Confessions of a Conjuror” in which he also comments on the dilemma of the question (far more eloquently than I). It’s a great read, particularly for any performing artists.

Top 10 tips for touring.

1. Take a technician.

When you first make a show, you obviously want to keep cost to a minimum, so will obviously decide to do the tech yourselves. Don’t. It’s a nightmare. Chances are, if you’re reading this blog, that you’re not going make a text heavy show, where every cue is a line in the script. So if the cue is “when I land a Juan-Qui” or “when I move my hand like this,” you’re gonna end up with wrong cues all over the shop, and a rubbish show.

Get a good lighting & sound designer, get them to put together a tech sheet which you send ahead to all venues, as well as “the book” for your touring tech with all the cues, levels etc. Make sure your touring tech calls ahead a week or so before you arrive to check the venue has everything you need.

Make sure you get on with them. You’re gonna spend a lot of time together, some of it very stressful, and we all mess up sometimes.

2. Take power naps

If your show has a get-in before midday, and you’re tour has a fair few dates (say, over 10), you’re going to end up knackered, especially if you’re doing the driving as well. If you get any chance for a kip during the day, take it.

3. Don’t scrimp on accommodation

It’s far better to spend a few extra quid on a B&B near the venue than to try and get a crap one in the middle of nowhere where 4 people have a share a room. Also, avoid nipping back home to sleep inbetween consecutive days performances. Ie. Home is in Hackney. Don’t do Newbury, Bristol, Newport and Reading over 4 nights, punctuated by epic journeys across the M4 and Euston Rd each night to cut costs. It’s more fun to cut off your arm.
(Lauren’s addition: The cheap crap B&Bs always have the best stories attached, even if it’s traumatic at the time. I’m willing to take a few of these, even if just to tell the grandkids. In Peterborough, we paid £39 to three of us to stay in what was essentially a self-storage unit for people. It was in an industrial park, and there was a code to enter the room, rather than a key. Then you had to step over a little barrier to get in. When the delivery guy came with our take-away, he wished us luck. Giles’ single bed was above our double, which you barely had room to step around. I love it. Afterwards.)

4. Use a tour-booker

Ours takes 12.5%. She checks our contracts, chases up our fees and sells us way better that we’d sell ourselves. Trust us, they’re worth every penny.
(Lauren: Especially if you’re employing a tech or other performers, you’ll want a tour with dates close together in dates as well as geographically, and it’s just a pain if you’re trying to do that, whilst forming new relationships with a load of venues.)

5. Be nice to in-house technicians (and all other venue staff)

It makes the day more pleasant, and often they’ll be the only person who has contact with you from the venue. So if you want to go back…

6. Try to squeeze in salad and healthy food.

It’s easy to live on a diet of shit food. There are lots of motorways, and after your get-out, you’ll be lucky if MacDonalds is still open. You inevitably end up feeling tired and fat. If you see a salad or a pulse, eat it!

7. Be patient

Touring is intense. Personalities can clash and tempers can run high. Hopefully it’s because you all care about what you do. Breath and count to ten.

8. Let people do their jobs

Lighting designers, directors, technicians, marketing managers and programmers usually know their jobs better than you do. If they don’t, then let them find it out for themselves.

9. Include as many post-show talks as possible

You will embed you yourselves in the venue and really give the audience that little bit extra. They’re also fun, and the venue will usually give you and your team a free drink. Just make sure you don’t have a 4 hour drive to go, and a 9am get-in the following day, or your tech will be looking at their watch!

10. Work hard and be modest

Do your job well, perform well and don’t go around acting like you’re better than anyone else. Because you’re not. Touring is very, very hard work. It is also immensely satisfying. Definitely the most satisfying part of our job. Just remember that as you’re driving down the M1 at 1am, eating a soggy MacDonalds, because it’s the only thing that’s open.

10.5- Don’t discount the little venues, or village halls. They’re the best!

Barcelona to Chatham

Barcelona!! Such a beautiful horizon. Or so sang the beloved Freddie. Not wrong. What a beautiful city. The sad fact being that we only got to spend a day there. Rubbish. We were working for a company called the New London Consort performing as part of their production, The Fairy Queen. Originally they wanted us to travel out on the Sunday but we had teaching all day and it was the last day of term for our youth circus so we agreed to a ridiculously early flight on the Monday instead.

Up at 4am and on the plane at Heathrow at 7.10. Neither Lauren nor I are morning people and this was no exception. I insisted on getting the biggest cup of coffee in the universe before we went through security. No liquids. Lauren grumbled. A lot. The only think to appease her morning grumble was a Krispy Kreme donut.

I hate airports. I’ve hardly ever been in one and felt awake. I’m always there either at stupid O’clock in the morning, hungover or both. And they are so white. And the whiskey is not actually cheaper at all in the duty free.  Upsetting. And I’m always a bit later than I should be and Lauren is inevitably always with me and panicking about missing our flight – which is right to do, as we almost always nearly do. Anyway, we were the last ones through the gates.  Had a bit of banter with the two trumpeters who were also ‘deviants’ – meaning they objected to missing a day’s work for a badly paid job in Spain and so had also requested 7am flights.

Barcelona itself is a lovely place and the venue was like some crazy building dreamt up by a member of royalty. All murals and stained glass and statues. Amazing. It was called the Palau de la Musica. I’ve popped in a couple of pictures to give an idea of the space. It was truly breathtaking. Funny, the show is about the journey to ‘Arcadia’ and at a few points in the show we’re supposed to look up as if we are in some magical place. Up until last night our magical place hadn’t usually been that magical. Last night I almost forgot to stop looking around the magical place. Danger danger!

After the show went for a few beers in a bar called the Cat Bar. We managed, on our only night in Barcelona, to stumble in to a bloody English bar! We met with a couple of friends who hadn’t been to see the show as it was too expensive. Sandro and Maria. Hadn’t seen Maria for ages so that was really lovely. Had pretty heated – and by now somewhat classic – Cirque du Soleil debate. Would you or wouldn’t you. I wouldn’t. I’ll rant about it another time. Pretty cool though as two randoms on another table got involved. International bonding. Good to see Cirque are good for something. Sorry if that offends anyone reading this. Happy to argue my case, although I’m aware cirque fans will argue I’m wrong. I’m not. They are.

Went for one last beer after seeing them off and Lauren to bed. Was in another bar via another bar. Jose (Trigero, new found buddy and beautiful juggler) and Boldo (or ‘The Great Boldo’ as he’s known in the show!) were pretty ‘merry’. Was all a bit much for me after the epic 24 hours I’d had awake. Far too tired to deal with being extra nice to important people either so I left after one. Made a refreshing change.

Had to be out of the hotel at 8.40 this morning. Ggggrrrr. Considering the flight wasn’t for another two hours I did feel this was unnecessary torture. Such is life.

Got back at about half two this afternoon before having a brief cup of tea and heading out to Chatham for a rehearsal. Wonder how many other people have experienced the culture shock of a beautiful venue in Barcelona with a standing ovation to an empty plasterboard fake theatre in Chatham in the same day. Not many I bet. Crazy life.

Finishing now before yet another early start tomorrow for a cancer charity publicity stunt in South Bank and Manchester. Another long day but for a good cause and the other people doing it are lovely. And I get to have an endless stream of people standing on my shoulders. Pimp base.  Although I do have to wear a lycra ‘wall’ costume. Mmmmmm. May not be posting pictures of that.

Going to grab a bit of grub, have a glass of vino and then shoot off to bed for a very well earned kip.

Kaveh. So & So.