WTM Spotlight - Circus on the South Coast

WTM have been actively programming contemporary circus for the last five years, launching the Summer of Circus in 2016, such was the success of the season that we now actively programme contemporary circus throughout the year. We talked to Amanda O’Reilly about the journey with circus so far...

The Summer of Circus season started in 2016 with an amazingly positive response from our audiences, what was the inspiration behind launching a programme of contemporary circus? 

We were looking for something for the Pavilion Theatre to identify it and, I guess, a unique selling point, we didn’t want to go back to summer entertainment on the pier. We were looking for something different, more contemporary. I have a background in contemporary dance and a love of physical theatre and when I first saw the contemporary circus it seemed to bring those two genres together and then all the spectacle and the fun of circus and just seemed like the perfect thing for us to start doing.

How would you describe contemporary circus to someone who has never seen a show of its kind?

So contemporary circus is very very physical. It uses all of the tricks of the trade of circus, so you get the aerial work, you get the wheel, you get those thrilling, scary moments of actually being worried for the safety of the performers. But the important thing about contemporary circus is it also has a narrative, so it has a story, and very often, also has a sense of humour. So it merges those extreme skill sets with a good night out.

What motivated you to create a venue for contemporary circus on the south coast?

Contemporary circus seemed like the next big genre that was coming along, and there didn’t seem to be much of it programmed on the south coast. I felt that there was an opportunity for a venue to really focus on the work, and build an identity with that work. The Pavilion theatre is like a brick and metal big top, it’s that big oval space, it’s that great ceiling, it’s got that vastness and that height. When you looked at the contemporary circus performances and the Pavilion theatre, they were just a match made in heaven. 

What is it that you think circus can offer that other genres cannot in terms of a live experience? What separates circus from another genre?

I think there’s an intimacy, particularly in the Pavilion, we put the audience quite close to the action, you share the emotions that the performers on the stage are experiencing, so you share the thrills, you share the humour, but there’s also that kind of almost fear factor that you share, so it’s very emotional, by the time a performance has finished you kind of have forgotten who you are, you just get so immersed in it that you forget everything around you.

What would you say to anyone who hasn’t come to see a circus performance yet? 

I’d say you are missing out massively. It’s just the most fun! You need to book a ticket and come and see something. Also it’s something that no one in the south is doing in the same way that we are, so you know we’re getting people from all over the world to come to Worthing with the best work there is, and it’s on your doorstep. So book a ticket!

In the last four years our circus programme has…