Upper Campfield Market Hall is undergoing a stunning transformation into a performance venue as we speak!
We caught up with Alex Harvey, one of the performers in Tipping Point, to find out more about what they get up to. Alex is also joint artistic director and head of rigging/equipment at Ockham's Razor and so who better to dish out some top tips to budding aerial performers.
How do you describe the kind of performance that you do?
Circus Theatre seems to describe it best. Sometimes aerial theatre but often that is too specific. Going further than that I always find really hard. It’s such a visual art form that it is difficult to describe with words. We are inspired by the images that are conjured by circus performers and we look for the stories inherent within them.
And how did you discover that this was something that you were good at?
I went to circus school at Circomedia in Bristol as a break between my fine art degree and my MA. I was into juggling and unicycling and wanted to make a street show to busk my way through my next studies. But I fell in love with aerial and never looked back. I’d always enjoyed climbing things, trees, ropes, cliffs, and I really took to trapeze.
Do you have any tips for young people that might want to follow in your footsteps?
Do it! No one ever told me this was on the table as a potential career if I wanted it. If you’re a physical and artistic person it’s a dream job. And if you’re a nerd about the technical side of it too, even better.
Do you ever get scared when you’re performing or learning a new move?
Not so much scared. We build things up in a really safe way so each progression is nailed before moving on to the next. Our bodies are our livelihood so we do really minimise the risks. But I am a base so I think the adrenaline levels are much lower than for a flyer.
Wow, even hearing the words ‘a flyer‘ is raising my adrenaline levels!
How do you prepare before a performance? Do you have a set routine of warming up, any traditions or something particular you eat?
I do… it’s pretty mundane though… I get to the venue about 3 ½ hours before the show. I have some technical preparations I have to do for the set. Then we all do our own individual warm ups but all in the performance space together. We each have our own warm up needs depending on what our bodies need that day. Music is a big part of that, we have an ever growing warm up playlist. We practice a few specific tricks that need special preparation. Then we have a short break, eat some food (I went through a long phase of always having a chicken korma microwave meal half an hour before the show) and get into costume. We like to have really loud music on in the dressing room too.
Have you ever performed in a venue like Upper Campfield Market before?
I’ve only seen photos of it so far. I’m looking forward to getting in there. It looks different to anywhere else we’ve been.
So what is the most unusual venue you’ve ever performed in?
We’ve performed in some weird venues… a cowshed in Cornwall, outside the London stock exchange, a couple of churches, a boxing gym, a bus station car park, a prison yard… I think the strangest was the train station in Queenstown, Tasmania, it was the only building in the town high enough. We built our truss up and over the tracks and they laid a stage across between the platforms but they had to make it like a drawbridge so they could lift it twice a day for the train to pass.
Finally…. have you ever joked about running away to the circus?
It’s not a joke in the industry because we all did… But it does get brought up a lot by relatives…
So, from Cowsheds to Chicken Korma, that’s your introduction to Circus Theatre from Alex Harvey.
Switch + Tipping Point begins this Wed 15 Aug at Upper Campfield Market Hall. We think it’s going to be pretty special so make sure you are there!