After my previous wobbles on the subject of contemporary circus performances, I nevertheless took a deep breath and booked another event, with even more ‘new’ friends. Between us, we demonstrated the spread of audience reactions to the experience.
Research by Audiences London into the audiences for contemporary circus – as part of City Circ – revealed that people tend to come to the art form from another art form in which they are already interested – and tend to respond to and seek in the circus performance those elements that are ‘familiar’ to them.
So, at No Fit State Circus’s performance Mundo Paralelo with Théâtre Tattoo last week, I came to it from a narrative theatre expectation (boosted by the way the performance had been billed) and wondered at what point the narrative idea had been lost. My friend who has (in deepest Norfolk) recently seen some excellent circus skills demonstrated, felt that the circus elements didn’t carry through to a traditional theatre setting too well – they lost the ‘wow’ factor. While my other friend, with no expectation of contemporary circus whatsoever, thought the whole thing was just brilliant.
Which bears out another finding from the season-long research: that people who attend contemporary circus for the first time have their expectations exceeded to a large degree, and come away with sky high satisfaction and enjoyment levels. While those who have been to performances before, and so have some preconceptions, tend to get pickier and pickier …