Interview: Luke Hallgarten from the Revel Puck Circus
We caught up with the beautiful people that are The Revel Puck Circus, to talk circus artistry, taking risks, mastering fear, and why you shouldn’t join the circus! Plus, some obligatory advice on what To Do in London…
Tell us about The Revel Puck Circus – how it came about and what makes it different.
With the Revel Pucks we are trying to show circus in a new light to the British public. As a group of artists who have mostly grown up in circus but outside of the traditional circus families, we have always been hounded with questions about how we look after our elephants and how much shoeshine it takes to clean our clown shoes.
It was out of this frustration that the Revel Puck Circus was born. We want to show our audiences that circus is a joyous examination of the human condition; it is a form that allows us to be honest with our audiences in what we present. There is no acting or pretending when performing circus, it’d be pretty hard to remain ‘in character’ just before you are about to take extreme risks with your body, and so we as a company embrace the reality of the situation. Through this we can connect with our audiences on a level playing field; real people doing extraordinary things on stage gives us a connection with our audience that is difficult to find anywhere else.
The circus tent is something that is incredibly close to our hearts, and part of the story of circus that we are working hard to keep alive. It gives us the chance to go where other productions cannot, landing in the heart of a community for a fleeting moment before packing up and leaving no trace other than the memories we leave behind. Whilst many of the modern circus companies are pushing to get onto theatre and dance stages, we believe that the big top is the home and heart of the circus. A place of magic and itinerant wonder where everyone, from everywhere is welcome.
What can audiences can expect at the new show ‘The Wing Scuffle Spectacular – a celebration of fear’?
Big tricks, bigger smiles and even bigger laughter! The Wing Scuffle is the second in our trilogy of shows that examines risk, its relationship to the human condition and why it is something to be celebrated. After these past 18 months of fear being such an explicit part of our lives, it feels like the right moment for this show. Fear is something that brings us together, that pushes us to achieve that which we have not before and which if we were to lose it, we would stop developing and moving forward as people.
The cast for the show is made up of homegrown east London talent; many of us came up through the London Youth Circus and have developed into professional artists. It’s an exceptional group of people that I feel very lucky to be working with. We have some great plans for the show and just to name a few things you can expect: swinging chainsaws with acrobats dodging and weaving around them, some large-scale circus disciplines such as teeterboard and cloud swing and also a lip-sync-for-your-life that would leave RuPaul aghast.
What are your influences in making your circus work?
The dancer/choreographer Onna Doherty is a big inspiration of mine: she’s totally revolutionising contemporary dance with a spirit that is truly punk. Jez Butterworth the playwright has such a devil in the detail mentality that is truly astounding and so simply nuanced it’s scary. Michaela Cole’s work both as an actor and writer has never ceased to show me that tragedy is comedy, and that if you work hard enough it’s clear that there is a hunger in society for something different.
What would you say to someone who wants to run away and join the circus?
Ha ha, we actually made a mini mockumentary series in the first lockdown called ‘Don’t Join the Circus’ which you can check out here.
But yeah, go for it! It’s hard but fun work, and as much a way of life as it is a job. I’d also mention that there are many different avenues to working in the circus; as has become clear throughout the pandemic, the arts and live performance industry is made up of so many different people who work incredibly hard to make shows happen. Don’t feel like you’d have to become an acrobat or a juggler to join the circus, we need cooks, producers, riggers and nannies as much as we need the artists!
What are your favourite London haunts?
Jeez, I love this city! There is nothing quite like watching a show at the National Theatre, and if you are under 25, I’d highly recommend signing up to their entry pass scheme. It’s free and gives you access to £10 tickets to all of their shows. I was front row for War Horse and paid a tenner. Those tickets are usually £75+!
For great music and delicious cocktails, I’d hit up the Kansas Smitty’s Bar on Broadway Market, a tiny 40-person capacity jazz bar with the best vibes.
I’ve also recently got into swimming and generally rotate between the outdoor pool in Leicester Square, the London Fields lido and the Olympic pool in Stratford. I was swimming at the Olympic pool the other day and Ellie Simmonds was training in the lane next to me. I was pretty star struck and it reminded me of what an amazing place this city is to live in. Where else would you be having your morning swim next to a world champion?