From Monday 18th to Friday 18th September myself (Joe) and a colleague Shaneen were lucky enough to take part in a Circus Director Observership during the tech rehearsals for Astley’s Astounding Adventures at the New Vic Theatre in Newcastle-Under-Lyme, directed by Theresa Heskins and Associate Director Vicki Dela Amedume MBE. This unique opportunity to expand our knowledge and understanding of circus created in a wonderful regional producing theatre, in the round was absolutely fantastic. Firstly a huge thank you to Vicki for giving us this opportunity to be part of something incredible, an experience that will help our development immensely.

Joe’s Reflections

I’ve been involved in community circus for over 20 years and have created many community show. My aspiration as I move forward is to create a full length touring new musical. Over the years, through community and pro cast research and development projects I have started to build out images, music, narrative, choreo and I stand here waiting for the right time to be awarded the funding to go back into rehearsals to give this show my 100%. A dream of mine.

Opportunities like this observership do not come up often, and it is opportunities like this that give insight into a magnificent world of creation, helping smaller organisations and individuals to develop, and empowering them with new ways of working. To observe a process with a huge creative team, to see seamless communications between departments, to feel a rehearsal space (so close to opening night) with such a positive, non-stress, constructive, collaborative energy was a pleasure to witness. Kindness and a real passion for creation and bringing a show to life was observed right through the creative team, cast and stage management.

It was fantastic to witness the stage management team in action. There are so many lessons that I have taken away from what I witnessed. As I step back into creation of my own show, I am a big step closer to seeing what is needed to pull off a show this scale because of this opportunity.

Polly needs a big mention in this. One of the Assistant Directors of the theater (who didn’t work directly on Astley’s Astounding Adventures) was an absolute gem all week. She looked after us, made sure we had everything we needed, set up conversations with people, special thanks to you Polly. I had lots of conversations with lots of people from production management (Thanks Ali), head of design and workshop (Thanks Liz & Laura), costume and lots of other smaller chats with an amazing team. I was invited to see parts of the process I didn’t know about and to have this insight into everything that had happened to get to the point of tech will hugely help the development on my own journey.

Finally, the show is fantastic. A must see.

Vicki has done a fantastic job of embedding circus into this show. Circus that moves through a journey of time right up to modern day, beautifully placed and paced. She’s captured the beauty of what circus is and was always meant to be inside the show that tells the story of circus from the start. It’s displayed it amongst Theresa’s incredible story and stage direction. Thank you to you both for allowing us to be present, to ask questions and to see you in action. It has done so much for our development. It is opportunities like this, and kind hearts that allow us to grow and continue to share the love of live performance with younger people and communities that may not connect with the arts.

Shaneen Neblett has been coming to community classes with my company CircusMASH for some time now and recently she reached out to me to express her desire to direct and make performance work. I’ve had a quite a few chats with Shaneen and I’m so excited that she is carving out this new chapter where by she is starting to draw on all of her past experiences in fashion, spirituality and contemporary dance (and now circus) and is starting to make her own work. Her first show is in May 2024.

Shaneens’ Reflections

What an experience we had. Taking part in the Circus Director Placement. The New Vic Theatre is a rare entity in that everything is done in house. To be able to watch the team work their magic with producing and creating shows was absolutely brilliant. The Tech team worked seamlessly together and each had their own view and vision.

Upon expressing this during each tech tweek between acts was given and welcomed effortlessly. The respect for others was second to none. All of the staff at The New Vic Theatre are so very welcoming and friendly, as we’re the acting cast members along with the circus performers. It felt like one big family. The education learned and also the amazing memories that will be taken away from this experience will be a permanent part of my life going forward.

Upon arrival at The New Vic Theatre we were greeted by Polly, who is absolutely lovely. Polly gave us a tour and introduced us to all of the team. All of whom were so happy to talk to us and explain what it is that they do at the theatre. To watch everything in action was tremendous. I’ve never experienced anything like it.

Tech had different time slots each day so the actors and Circus performers knew when to be present. Everything from costume down to props had a place and the organisation of this is top notch. Nothing was ever out of place or couldn’t not be found. Each tech session the actors are observed during each rehearsal. The rehearsal was then paused and critiqued by the head stage team and improved. Watching them work together and communicate with such ease was brilliant. I won’t go into too much detail as not to give away the theatre trade secrets to a 5 star show but team work makes the dream work.

Being given this opportunity by Vicki, whom is so calm, warm, friendly and full of so much amazing knowledge. I am forever grateful to her. Also being chosen by the company director of Circus MASH Joe for this amazing opportunity. Joe is full of motivation, positivity, knowledge and also has a very relaxed nature. Iam so happy to have been a part of this experience. I have taken away so many lessons and visuals that will stay with me forever. Thank you to The New Vic Theatre team. Thank you to the actors and also thank you to the circus performers. You were all so friendly and open with me from day one. I absolutely appreciate every moment I spent with this company and the amazing people that make it function.

This show is a must watch!! Excellent!

Shaneen xx