Caro Meets Dance & Physical Interview

Vicki Amedume: Bedtime Stories

By | Published on Thursday 21 May 2015

Half term is coming up, so if you are a parent, you might be interested to hear that family circus piece ‘Bedtime Stories’ is headed to Stratford Circus Arts Centre for four performances next week.


The show has been created by Vicki Amedume, aerialist and circus practitioner, via her critically acclaimed company Upswing. I put some questions to Vicki, ahead of the imminent run.

CM: Tell us about the show. Where does the story take us?
VA: The story takes us from a child’s bedroom (shortly after she has been put to bed) to the moon, across seas and mountains and back again. It is about a mother and a child who both get a bit lost in their own worlds, so it travels quite far to bring them back together.

CM: What themes does it explore?
VA: The show is really about connection and those precious moments with the people we care about and how they can get sidetracked by the demands of our daily activity.

CM: How did you go about creating the show? Did you sit down and write a text, or was it mostly devised?
VA: It was not a straightforward process. I knew I had an interest in making something for families but I was not sure what.

Following the thread we decided the best way to start was to spend some time with families, carers and their children. Using what we discovered in that time we worked with a writer, Yusra Warsama, and some actors and, through a combination of writing in response to a devising task, came up with a structure. After that we went back to the families that we met and shared the ideas we were following to see if there was resonance for them in what we were making.

Because movement drives what we do rather than text, devising features strongly in our making process. English was not my first language so I find physicality and gesture speak to me more strongly than text, but I’ve discovered when approaching complex ideas words can be helpful.

CM: What made you want to broach this topic? What was the inspiration?
VA: When I was a child, my mum would sometimes work nights; she was a social worker at a residential children’s home. When at work she would record a story tape for us so the next night she could be with us for our bedtime story. I felt very connected to my mum in those times even though she was not with us in person. I wanted to create something that touched on the magic of the experience I had listening to my mother’s voice narrating stories for me, my brother and my sister.

CM: What made you want to do a show for families?
VA: My siblings are all parents now and I am endlessly amazed by them, how much they have changed through being parents and yet how absolutely the same they are. Being a carer for another human being seems like such a huge thing and I was just really, really curious about how it all works. Creating a show gave me an excuse to be nosey.

CM: What attracted you to circus performance? Was it something you always wanted to be involved in?
VA: It’s exciting! I love how it can’t be faked. With aerial and acrobatics you either can or you can’t, do or you don’t and there is no grey area.

CM: You’re the director and founder of Upswing, aren’t you? What motivated you to set it up? What are your aims?
VA: I wanted to create a company and work that resonated with me culturally. I came to the UK as a child and I have grown up in one of the most diverse areas in London. When I started working as a professional circus artist I felt a lot of the work I was seeing and being asked to do was of a style that I just wasn’t feeling. Upswing was started as a way to try a different approach. Ten years later I think that is what the company is still about.

CM: What’s next for you, and the company?
VA: ‘Bedtime Stories’ will tour again in the autumn, and we will be back in London at the Albany in autumn, and touring our outdoor show Red Shoes in the Summer. We also have a very exciting project in development with Entelechy arts exploring falling, balance and aging bodies that has come from some past work in developing our last show ‘What Happens in the Winter’. And finally we start developing a new piece of work inspired by collaboration with spoken word and hip hop artists that is likely to be our next show in 2017.

‘Bedtime Stories’ is on at Stratford Circus Arts Centre for four performances from 28-30 May. See the venue website here for more info and to book.

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