We are excited to welcome the amazing Charmaine Childs to the Bicester Festival this year.
She will be performing her acclaimed new show ‘Strong Enough’ on Sheep Street this coming Sunday Sept 12th at 11am and 2pm.
Come along to enjoy the show and find out more about the Stories of Change she is collecting from people in Bicester as part of her residency.
Find out more about Charmaine’s StrongLady Productions work below
I am a circus Strong Lady. This is a job that has been a great joy to me and has taken me to festivals and venues in 28 countries over the past 20 years. I have created a handful of
shows over the years, all of them centred on celebrating strength and connection and body positivity. In 2021 I am touring 2 new shows that are the result of a significant change in both my creative practice and how I think about strength.
My main work until 2019 has been my solo show STRONG LADY, an elegant array of feats of strength like lifting men out of the audience in various ways. I have also created ensemble and duo shows as an acrobatic base (the person who lifts the other people in a circus acrobatic act). All these shows were created from the starting point of the skills or tricks I really wanted to perform for an audience. The creation process would begin with learning the tricks and exploring physical possibilities for the show, then I would craft the show around those tricks. Seeking out the music, text, comedy and shape for the show that would make the tricks as exciting as possible – and most importantly uplift audiences.
By virtue of being a woman lifting men for a living, I have had the opportunity to celebrate the strength of women – and lifting men in my shows I have been able to show off the kindness and supportiveness of men – using my work to subtly invite audiences to rethink assumptions about gender. Also, by being a larger woman performing shows that celebrated what my body was capable of, I have had the opportunity to spotlight body positivity. These deeper parts of my work have been powerful – both for audiences and for me. When you play these things over and over, they become part of you.
A few years ago I had the urge to make a new kind of work, and explore some different
parts of strength. I wondered if I could bring more storytelling into my circus work. I
wondered if I could journey beyond the strength of being invincible and in control – to a show that celebrated the strength of resilience, perseverance, determination and
vulnerability. I decided to create 2 new shows: one for theatres, POWER – and one for
outdoor festivals, STRONG ENOUGH.
These shows tell stories of real people and the ways they are strong in real life, using the
physical strength in circus skills to reveal the inner strength in their stories. They also reveal more of my own vulnerability, rather than only showing myself only as an invincible strong lady.
It was very scary to depart from the performing style and show structures that I had spent 20 years honing! Over a few years I worked with many incredible collaborators and mentors to develop a creative process where I begin with the story and then explore what skill or trick or movement will best reveal something powerful in that story. It meant that I have ended up learning whole new skills, because that is the thing that the story most needed… for example I learned how to balance a scaffolding-plank because it revealed the struggle and delicate balance of control in a story, in a way nothing else could. Through the various lockdowns I had to also adapt my way of working with collaborators on the shows – figuring out how to create physical work over zoom, from my living room (light bulbs may have been broken along the way…) But these new ways of working also gave me opportunities to work with people in other countries on certain scenes in the show, as I was no longer constrained to the people who were in reach of my rehearsal room. Some of the people who helped me along the way in developing a new creative process or directly in making these shows are: Charlotte Mooney (Ockham’s Razor), Ali King (Turtle Key Arts),
Emma Bernard, Petra Massey (Spy Monkey), Matt Eaton (Composer), Joyce Henderson
(Complicite), Mervyn Millar (Object Animation Director) and Movement Coaches Farid Herrera, Connor Wild, Arielle Lauzon and Gabbie Cook.
In creating these shows I interviewed loads of people, asking them to tell me about a time when they were strong or powerful. Everyone’s first reaction was that they wouldn’t have a story like that, but with a little digging, EVERYONE does. Hearing their stories has shaped the content of my shows – but has importantly also changed the way I see strength myself. I had previously only celebrated the strength of being invincible and had only felt powerful when I was in control and getting things right… Now I celebrate the strength we have to to be vulnerable, to be in uncertainty, to not know for sure that things will work out, but to choose our next step through the mess anyway.
POWER and STRONG ENOUGH have been touring to audiences through 2021 and I am delighted to see the impact they are having on audiences. The road to get here was
bumpy, but it was wonderful as well. I am excited to see what is around the next corner.