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Artistic director Charlotte Mooney: ‘We use circus to tell relatable human stories’

Charlotte Mooney. Photo: Nik Mackey Charlotte Mooney. Photo: Nik Mackey

Joint artistic director of contemporary circus company Ockham’s Razor with Alex Harvey and Tina Koch, Charlotte Mooney tells Giverny Masso how the company’s latest show was developed after she realised that contemporary circus was dominated by performers in their 20s and 30s…

Tell me about Ockham’s Razor.
We make contemporary circus or circus-theatre. We use the movement and images in circus to tell relatable human stories. There’s a lot of emotion in circus in terms of trust, reliance and relationships, so when you watch one of our shows, it’s very clear what’s happening – that it’s about friendship or betrayal, for example. The other thing we’re well known for is that with each show we make a new piece of circus equipment. They are almost like part of the set or moving sculptures.

What equipment do you use in This Time, which is running at Edinburgh Festival Fringe?
This Time, which is about time and age, has a series of frames in it that are the size of a mirror in a wardrobe. Some of them are manipulated on the floor and some are pulled in the air. We use them for doubles, triples or quadruples trapeze. We chose the frames because they resonate with the themes in the show; at certain times a frame looks like a doorway or a threshold, or sometimes it looks like a mirror or a spinning timer.

What was the inspiration for This Time?
The show has a 13-year-old performer, my partner and me, who are both 40, and a 60-year-old. We made a big decision to have a very physical circus show but with a wide range of ages. First, we’d become aware how monolithic contemporary circus is – the vast majority of shows we saw were filled with 20 and 30-year-old bodies. If you go back to traditional circus, one of the interesting things about it is that you would have a whole family – including toddlers and grandparents – performing on stage together. There’s a lot of very close performance, carrying and holding, in circus. Often, when the performers are in their 20s and 30s, it’s quite difficult to get away from that looking like love – and often a very sexualised love. So we thought it would be interesting to have a whole other realm of human experience to look at. Also, we had a kid, so I think the experience of having your first child and turning 40 made the ideas of age and time seem a bit relevant.

What is your other touring show, Belly of the Whale, about?
Belly of the Whale is our first outdoor show. It’s quite extraordinary because it has three performers who use a beautiful rocking-boat sculpture that kind of looks like a skate ramp. It’s about stepping into a place of danger or discomfort. The belly of the whale in psychology is a deep, dark place where you go to confront your fears in order to be reborn.

CV Charlotte Mooney

Training: Foundation circus, Circomedia, Bristol (2003)
First professional role:  Acro-balance in Myth, Magic and Legend in Farnham (2004)
Agent: Turtle Key Arts

This Time runs at St Stephens Theatre Grand Hall until August 25 – bit.ly/edfringe-thistime; Belly of the Whale is touring until September 28 – see website for details: ockhamsrazor.co.uk

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