Interview: Circa's hula hoop artist Jessica Connell talks making Peepshow and common misconceptions about acrobatics
Jessica Connell is a hula hoop artist performing in Circa's Peepshow at the Underbelly. She talks about creating the show, training schedules and popular misconceptions about acrobatics.
What was the inspiration behind Circa’s Peepshow?
The inspiration behind the show is about seeing and being seen. We were inspired by the idea of how people see one another. The action we take, how we dress, what we say all influence how we are seen by others.
Why should people come and see it?
Peepshow is a raw, risky, honest show that I am still excited to have helped create and be performing. We are seven acrobats on stage. We work together as an ensemble and we all have something to share with the audience. There is humour, great skills, great music including an original composition and we have worked hard to explore new acts and styles to express our art-form.
The lighting is also exciting. There are moments in the show where I am performing acrobatics in different styles of lighting I have never performed acrobatics or hula hoops in before. It creates great challenges and opportunities for us in our show.
How do you put a show together?
The Ensemble with our Director Yaron Lifschitz and associate director Libby McDonald work to explore concepts and themes. Sometimes our director comes in with a track or an idea and we explore that idea physically.
There is a lot of experimentation and a show can change a lot from day one. Some ideas change beyond recognition, others grow and some don’t make it in the show at all.
It is also a very free environment to work in. We have lots of discussions and are free to bring ideas into the room.
What is the hardest bit?
Everyone will find different aspects of the show hard depending on their role. I perform hula hoops with the ensemble; they lift me, twist me and throw hoops to me.
Performing my skills like this is new and an exciting and challenging act we have created for Peepshow.
Our show is also very physical. We spend a lot of time on stage together either assisting someone in their solo skill or performing acrobatic numbers together.
The endurance needed to be physical for an hour show is definitely challenging and by the end of a seven-show week, you can leave for your day off feeling quite tired.
How much training and practising do you do in between performances?
In rehearsal weeks we train 9 am to 5 pm, five days a week. On tour or in a season we tend to warm up/train 3 hours before every show.
Sometimes we do extra rehearsals and people often do their own training, cardio or strength or stretching in their own time depending on their skills and physical needs for the show.
What is the most common misconception about acrobatics?
That it is easy. We spend a lot of time training and refining our skills. Often to the point that people say what we are doing on stage looks easy.
Often we find that the skills that took the longest time to train are the ones that people were less impressed by and the skills I have been for years and I think are really easy are the most impressive to our audiences.
Tell us something that nobody realises about acrobatics?
That acrobatics in a circus show is only half the work. A lot of time is spent training but as much time is spent exploring ways of performing a skill, working on music, transitions, lighting, costumes and themes.
It’s easy to focus on the acrobatics as it is the main tool we use to express our work but it needs to work in harmony with the rest of the show to transform it from a physical display into an engaging performance.
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