New Vic and Upswing to fuse theatre with circus

Published: 23 March 2023
Reporter: Steve Orme

New Vic artistic director Theresa Heskins and Upswing artistic director Vicki Dela Amedume MBE Credit: Andrew Billington
The 2018 New Vic production of Astley’s Astounding Adventures Credit: Andrew Billington
A site-specific performance of Upswing’s Circus Flavours Credit: Jerome Wittingham

Staffordshire’s New Vic Theatre and circus company Upswing are to begin an annual programme of work fusing theatre with contemporary circus.

The two organisations will develop their creative collaborations which began in 2009 with Bryony Lavery’s adaptation of Magdalen King-Hall’s novel The Wicked Lady.

The partnership aims to bring circus home to Newcastle-under-Lyme where Philip Astley, father of the modern circus, was born, and to widen access to a range of cultural opportunities through circus-theatre work for audiences and participants.

New Vic artistic director Theresa Heskins said, “it’s really rewarding that this year we can truly celebrate the town’s circus legacy. Thanks to support from the Arts Council as part of our national portfolio funding, the New Vic and Upswing can also develop our partnership further—looking for more ways to combine circus and theatre together. It feels like a really important moment for us, the industry and audiences.”

Upswing artistic director and New Vic associate director Vicki Dela Amedume MBE added, “Upswing have been working with the New Vic for 14 years on projects to fuse circus and theatre together, experimenting on productions to tell stories in extraordinary ways.

“I’m so excited that we’re now able to develop this relationship further to create an annual programme of work that will allow us to be even more ambitious, more inventive, celebrating the skills and talents of circus artists through exciting new performance, engagement and professional development projects.”

Highlights from the first year of the programme include a new production of Astley’s Astounding Adventures, the New Vic show about Philip Astley, site-specific performances of Upswing’s Circus Flavours—a platform for Upswing’s associate artists to present themselves to a live audience—and two circus skills summer schools.

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