Ever walked into a performance without fully knowing what to expect? It happened to me a Jacksons Lane in North London. I left with my eyes wide open.
Going to Jacksons Lane was a destination in itself, one I was taking because of a friendship I made in 2015 with Ali Williams, co-founder and former artistic director of the pioneering Welsh circus company NoFitState. I had the pure luck of taking a Welsh road trip with Ali crisscrossing around Northwest Wales, learning about circus, discovering people who work outside the edge, getting to know Ali’s work abroad and dreaming of a future with more circus in it. Two years later, I have more circus in my life and I’m off to see Ali’s work and to explore a new venue.
After a quick dinner at the in-house café (BTW, most British theater venues have a café where you can always get a nice bite to eat, often vegetarian, and always with a glass of wine ordered small, medium or large), after a big hug from Ali, it was off to the show and a soon-to-be eye-opening experience of human cruelty transformed through human resiliency told through circus arts. Heavy, right? You bet it is.
As a Tiger in the Jungle is inspired by three performers and their real-life childhood trauma, told through movement, circus and spoken word. The performance brings awareness to child slavery and abuse of children forced into traditional Indian circus. The victims tell their story through the circus skills that were once forced upon them. Since this woeful situation’s discovery in 2002, over 700 children have been rescued and released. Please make some time to read about it here. In 2013, Ali spent a year working as the Creative Director of Circus Kathmandu, a group of 13 young men and women who were rescued from Indian circuses.
We often hear about human trafficking, but rarely do we come face-to-face with it. I did that night at Jacksons Lane. Face-to-face within an art form that I love and embrace so wholeheartedly that it’s difficult to describe the mix of horror and awe that are unveiled throughout the performance. Imagine watching something that captivates you, knowing it comes at a great human price.
There we sat, experiencing art with three performers asking questions about life, love, poverty and greed. It never felt right to respond with applause even when the performers did the impossible with strength, skill and control. Instead we were mesmerized and locked into silence with our own thoughts and empathy intertwining with the music, movement and shapes of the performers. We were led head first into the horrific story as the performers shared their artistic skills with newly discovered voices, bringing a new beauty to acrobatics, silks, partnering and aerial trapeze. We witnessed the performers’ liberation as they took control of their skills and owned their artistry.
Seeing As a Tiger in the Jungle is a powerful foundation for the weeks ahead and sets the stage for me to explore more circus with my eyes wide open.