Crawley Circus Festival 2007

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The Hawth, Crawley

10-Aug-2007 to 12-Aug-2007

Quite a roll call this year: Nicky, Karina, Helen, Beth, Dave K, Charlie 1, Charlie 2, Simon, Kevin, Laurence, GaŽtan, John, Dr Bob, Little Si, Frag & myself were there for the whole thing & Jenny, Mrs K, Luis, Dave L, Helen, Max & Sam put in an appearance too. It was a tight squeeze but we were mostly all camped together.

The weather was fantastic & I was able to enjoy it all the more thanks to finally finding myself a decent sun hat. I never went into the juggling hall once all weekend, instead I spent all my time out chatting, eating & drinking with friends. Dr Bob had a nice batch of Cuban chocolates & a lovely bottle of mead which I & a lot of other people had never tried before. Everyone who had a taste had the same 'mmmmm' themed reaction as I did. Cider is still the drink for me though. Nicky excelled with some fantastic chocolate brownies, both the standard stuff & a premium batch made with Green & Black's Maya Gold & Hennesey cognac which were phenomenal. We all did a lot more cooking on camping stoves than usual, the Saturday morning fry up was awe inspiring. This year I learnt that butter will explode into flames if you leave it on the heat long enough while you scrabble around for utensils. Nicky was not impressed.

Little Si, Helen & Mr K tried to teach me how to play poker, most of it sunk in although I never actually won a hand. It was an interesting game although not quite what I was expecting. Andrew had a couple of new toys to play with, a perfect spinning tray & a kid's bat & ball game where the ball is attached to the bat by a length of elastic which was a lot more difficult than I expected. Mr K stopped using it after he hit himself in the crotch. Serves him right for using it as a spanking paddle.

Charlie 1 somehow managed to get a pizza delivered to site all the way from Horsham. That same night Beth came back to camp & fell over, she then got up & tried to sit down at our picnic table but missed the seat by a clear 3 feet. Before all that she had been quite happily wheel walking around on her unicycle.

It was Charlie 2's first festival during which he seemed to subsist entirely on Coca Cola. We also learned that he has a disturbingly high density of chest hair. Next year we will be sure to bring an adequate stock of sedatives.

The majority of the club went to the annual & always entertaining club stealing workshop with Steve & Amie. It is possible that we were paying more attention this year because we learnt something new, a pair of very early takeouts taken diagonally & put back in straight followed immediately by a pair of late takeouts. When it flows it feels fantastic.

The Show

Quite simply a stonker. After the unsuccessful compere replacement experiment in Last year's show we were back to a more traditional compere in the form of Charlie Holland who probably gave far too much information about each act & some among our group found this a little dull. Although the running gag about his book was very funny & I have to respect the sheer amount of work he put in to get to the Polish Chinese Chinese Pole pun. In no particular order then...

My favourite act of the show was Acrojou performing a duet with 2 German wheels. They mixed acrobatics on the wheels with ballet & capoeira beautifully well. Everyone I talked to after the show was as desperate to have a go on a German wheel as I was.

The winner of the Crawley award from the BYJOTY show at this year's BJC, Sarah Bizcup performed the same belly dancing plus ball juggling routine that won her the award. When I first saw it at the BJC I didn't actually like it, the dancing & juggling didn't seem to gel. This performance however, was miles better, everything was much more polished. Whoever selected Sarah to win the award obviously has a much better eye for talent than I have.

The other performer to come out of the BYJOTY stable was Adrian Pole with a 3 to 6 ring routine performed with energy as only he knows how. After his spot Little Si (a TWJC social member who has never been to a juggling club night or a juggling festival, but a seasoned musical performer) asked me where he learnt his confidence & stage presence from. If I knew that I wouldn't be sitting in the audience.

My least favourite was Nathanial Rankin from the start I didn't like the overly cheesy dramatic presentation. He then combined magic with some droppy ring juggling & manipulation which seemed shoe-horned together & didn't work for me. He rounded off his act with a 6 ring fountain, which was nowhere near as clean as Ady. Never book 2 acts for the same show if they have the same finishing trick. I would have much preferred to see his magic act.

Acrobatics wise So & So Theatre performed a very sexy & stylish piece which will forever be remembered for 'that move'. The girl took a flying leap at her partner & she locked her ankles behind his head then he span round while she hung from his neck like a necklace. The rest of the act was fantastic too, but that bit was mouth gapingly sensational. Also acro-ing were High Execution who have performed at Crawley before as the Horsham Gymnastics Team. Bare skin is far better than lycra (hello Danny). As usual highly skilled, very impressive feats of strength & my respect for what these people can do has increased further since we've become a lot more acro-minded at TWJC.

The festival certainly got their money's worth out of The Gandinis who performed 3 seperate acts in the show, a bounce juggling piece where the troupe of 5 banged out a rhythm on the floor, a ring passing piece involving ridiculous numbers of rings & a final club passing set with Aerotech gloclubs seamlessly choreographed as only the Gandinis can. I think Owen Reynolds in particular deserves credit for being stuck with the single club that failed early in the show, he carried on with the unilluminated club in the very low light without a drop through a large number of complex patterns & transitions until there was a break & he could run off stage for a replacement.

Navaku, a duo consisting of Evgeny Nikolaev & Sophie Richards performed a static trapeze act. The thing I remember most though was that Evgeny's costume didn't have a single sequin or a patch of lycra, all he wore was a pair of jeans & a tight striped T-shirt. I understand the use of lycra is to show off the body, but by keeping it mostly hidden his physique looked all the more formidable. The act itself was very slick indeed. For this kind of act I don't look at the individual moves but rather how they transition between them, everything was so smooth with no visible signs of tension. A joy to watch.

Prior to the festival I couldn't find much out about Ockham's Razor other than a handful of good reviews, the Wikipedia page didn't really give any clues either. Although I didn't put that much effort into searching as I still like surprises. When the act was announced as a long one I started having doubts & by the end of the first 30 seconds or so I was beginning to wonder whether box sitting would be the new string dangling, but as the routine went on my prejudices against aerial acts pleasantly melted away. Their set was a single long rope running up, across & down through 2 pulleys spaced a couple of metres apart in the rafters, enabling lots of interesting counterbalanced moves. The routine was set to a number of well chosen tracks broken by silence which was well used for humour & suspense at the end. The best thing about the 4 strong group was that they all performed with great humour which was all visual, sometimes subtle, sometimes slapstick & not even in the most strenuous of moves did any of them break character - the true sign of mastery of an art. After the compere warned that it was going to be a long act it certainly didn't seem like it.

I hereby declare the legacy of Alban Elved over.

Renegade

The usual master of ceremonies was absent due to some marriage commitment or other so festival big cheese Dave Law took the reins. The night found its level very early on, I think the very first heckle was a call for nudity. I owe Bungle an apology, after he pulled out a bottle of water I made Charlie 1 replace it with a bottle of cider much to the appreciation of the crowd. Little did we know though that the water was to water down around a third of a pint of absinthe which he drank while juggling 5 balls. Sorry Tom, I am ashamed at my lack of faith. Matt (who did well to remain composed after a proportional enquiry) & Isis from High Execution came on stage to show off a few more acrobatic stunts the most impressive of which saw Isis jump & tuck herself up while Matt swung her down between his legs then back up into a handstand. A group of people in cloaks did a musical skit by chanting the names of various characters from the Harry Potter novels. I filed it under 'What was all that about?'. We were shown a neat way to fold a banknote which when tilted makes the Queen look happy or sad.

Mad French Posse star Vux showed off his diabolo skills, of which I remember a lovely infinite suicide finished by catching the handstick in his knee pit. More memorable though was that whenever he dropped GaŽtan screamed BOOZER!!!! & leapt onto the stage with a drink. This was most remarkable because the stage is at least as tall as he is. Diabolo Pete also did some fantastic diaboloing & Pete's friend demonstrated that if you ask enough people to get naked on stage someone eventually will.

Not quite sure how but Mr K & I ended up on stage where after a few attempts we managed a pretty respectable run of the takeout sequence we had come up with during the takeout workshop in the afternoon. No one was more impressed than we were. I thought the stars of the evening though were Dr Bob cutting a sheet of paper held by Charlie 1 whose reactions to every cut were priceless, then Frag volunteering to have a cigarette whipped from his mouth which exploded in a shower of tobacco. Beautifully done.

It was one of the best renegades I've been to for years. The atmosphere was fantastic & I don't think that spirits could have been higher.

After Renegade

Last year there was only half a dozen of us who carried on playing in the marquee but this year there was easily 30ish revellers all partying. Much enthusiasm but little harmony was put into singing the usual Queen & Tenacious D songs as a surprising number of people seem to be able to play a guitar. Glyn & I had a go at some shaker cup moves with traffic cones. There was a lot of quite scary acrobalance going on, as I was starting to sober up I realised just how scary it was. Ending up with Beth sitting astride my shoulder told me I wasn't particularly in control as the base. Still we carried on & we had a 10 person kneeling pyramid on the go, I felt pretty comfortable on the second level until one side collapsed & I was cracked pretty hard on the shoulder by someone's foot. Charlie 1 seemed to be leading a handstand workshop which was interesting since she can't actually do one & the first, last & only time we got her up into one at TWJC she spent the entire time she was upside down screaming for us to let go of her legs. We were joined by a late night dog walker & his inquisitive horse sized bullmastiff who was really soppy. I packed it in at 3.30 to have a shower then went to bed. Some of our group stayed on until around 4.30ish, I think some of the others went through to day break.

The Games

I actually took part in some of the games this year, I was knocked out of the 3 club gladiators by Vux, I only lasted half a minute or so in the club balance endurance because it was so bright & thanks to my new sunhat my eyes hadn't adjusted to the brightness & were streaming tears down my cheeks from start to finish.

The handstand endurance was the very definition of a foregone conclusion as Isis went up & stayed up & everyone else went up then down. Except there was another person who was doing the wussy knees on elbows balance. Still Isis held her handstand solidly with her head turned fully sideways nonchalantly watching her competitor. Still Dave thought this was unfair & made her falter by tickling her feet.

Dave also intervened in the unicycle gadiators by trying to knock Zyllan off with a staff, except that he couldn't!

The grab hold of a number of people for dear life game was as brutal as ever. I was quite pleased with how far I progressed but I got to a point where I was a giant among a group of kids, I was in a group of the required number & an extra kid was desperately trying to scrabble in on all fours. Naturally I picked him up by the hips & threw him out. While I was doing this another loose kid had scrambled into my group to take my place. I thought about throwing him out too but sometimes you have to admit that you're on to a loser.

Yet another great festival from the Crawley team. Well done people! See you all next year.