Q&A : Zoë
After winning The Total Theatre Award for Best Circus in 2018, multi award winning Australian circus group A Good Catch, return with the international premiere of new show Zoë. It’s an intimate show that reflects and responds to the climate crisis and to the fact that as a species we seem collectively unwilling to respect the other species we are supposed to co-exist with. Zoë’s acrobatic feats are assembled with movement, text, sound, soft sculptures, and projected images.
A Good Catch formed in 2017 with the aim to experiment with circus. The three womenat its heartare Debra Batton, Sharon Gruenert and Spenser Inwood. Brought togetherby life’s adversities and apinch of serendipity, all three began acrobatics as children andenjoy distinctive careers in Circus and Physical Theatre, individually performing withprestigious companies including Cirque du Soleil, Flying Fruit Fly Circus, Legs on the Wall,and Circus Oz to name just a few.
We asked them a few questions about their latest breathtaking show.
What made you choose a mushroom as one of the central elements of the show?
Fungi is amazing! We are just beginning to know how important it is too our survival; its underground nature calls us to embrace this quiet achiever. Mushrooms are active,often unseen and they connect. The mushroom was our costume designer’s idea (https://clarameeyeechan.weebly.com/), we embraced it knowingit would be difficult to do circus in.
How difficult is it to perform in such elaborate costumes?
We have often wondered what the #%@?! are we doing?! We get very hot, we lose some peripheral vision, and our bodies take up space differently.We have had to increase our precision and trust our embodied knowledge. For example, our techniques have adjusted to accommodate the loss of visual cues for balancing in hand to hand. We are also incredibly satisfied with this experiment with posthuman circus. We are challenging our creativity through costume elements that affect our bodies and our bodies are our primary tools. The costumes are a performative way of becoming more than human; a multiple being, a symbiont. In some ways they assist our performance too, we have had to make friends with our costume and that process has assisted the imaginative qualities that this work demands of us.
Could you explain the concept of posthuman circus and how it aims to create a better connection between humans and the natural world?
In some ways posthuman circus is a critique of individualism, of the neoliberal idea that we are self-contained and self-sufficient entities that thrive in the competitive marketplace. It valuescooperation and collaboration. Posthumanism recognisesthe interconnected knowledge in all species including the virus, the plants, the pets we love and the microbes that live inside us. It asks us to consider the liveliness of materiality. The human is no longer separate from the technology in their pocket orthe fungus beneath the earth.
To go back a step, posthuman circus is a response to acclaimed philosopher RosiBraidotti’s Posthuman Knowledge. It is about thinking with other species and being prepared to give up the idea that humans are a superior species. To resist a way of living that exploits all other species and elements for profit regardless of their destructive impacts. Although this is somewhat tangential, this makes me more aware of my habits as a consumer and just how connected our economy is to the destruction of the planet.
As a performer in this work, do you aim that each time you play your part you achieve a better connection to the natural world?
Each time we perform Zoëwe deepen our ability to recognise the natural world’s presence in everything, from the air we breathe to the atmosphere in the room; from nervous butterflies in the tummy to the surfaces that make our table slip or grip. We are increasing our awareness of the interconnections between our bodies (inside and out) and the material world we are working with including the table (the table is the only circus apparatus in this show). This often creates more questions; what is wood?Where has the wood in this table come from? The research that has contributed to Zoë’s becoming has inspired our interest in the natural world- fungi for example and how it creates a communicative network for trees – I mean wow!
Webelieve we are changed by each new show that we make, and every performanceis an opportunity to notice more detail. In Zoë we feel our symbiotic relationship with each other, the sound, the projection the soft sculptures (costumes) and the audience. This noticing feeds into the next show and so it continues. A live performance is never finished, it is always becoming itself. The theatre atmosphere is a symbiotic relationship with each audience, this idea is not new, but it is perhaps a re-articulation of this special situation.
Do you feel that a high energy performance makes us more aware of the destructive energy of wildfires?
I think energy can be framed in many ways, high energy performance such as tumbling across the space can stimulate our kinaesthetic response, it can be a call to action.Zoë is also reflective and mesmeric, funny and disruptive, surprising and challenging.Stillness and suspense have unsettling energetic implications. Perhaps doing nothing creates awareness of destruction too.Zoë responds to some of the many complicated partsof the climate crises without making didactic conclusions. For example,fire is visually projectedand it reminds us of warmth and destruction, rain can be heard in the soundtrack, suggesting the importance of water and at the same time the floods that have been destroying homes and communities. All performance elements add layers of meaning to the work of Zoë. It is an invitation to feel and think as well as to look and listen. To wonder about what is important and consider how to care for that.
Do you see a future where humans finally learn to live in harmony with nature?
Yes, I see a future where humans learn to live harmoniously with nature and technology because we love this world. This future is related to listening to first nations people and embracing apost-colonial future. Speaking as a white Australian woman in her 60s I am still working at throwing off the misinformation of my childhood education. First nations peoples have always respected their relationship with other species and the world around them. Paying attention to the interconnected knowledge systems in plants, animals and weather patterns, to name some.How lucky we are to have their 60-thousand-year-old knowledge shared with us despite the destructive colonial history they have suffered from.Ideas such as: custodianship of country, walking lightly on the land, only taking what you need, respect for elders, time for ritual, community and care, - these values systems already exist, do we have the humility to learnand to shape a future that values nature – including human nature?Maybe we can build new systems, or at least decrease the profit dominated frameworks that only really suit the top earning 10%.
Zoë, Assembly Roxy (Central), 3.30pm, 3-14 August (no day off)