Caro Meets Children's Show Interview Dance & Physical Interview

Vicki Amedume: The Ramshackle House

By | Published on Wednesday 6 December 2017

Last time we spoke to Upswing founder Vicki Amedume it was about ‘Bedtime Stories’, a dreamy show for children told through acrobatics and visual projections. It was great to hear that a new show from the company will be on at Stratford Circus Arts Centre in the run up to Christmas, a fabulous-looking winter treat for families.

I reconnected with Vicki, to find out more about ‘The Ramshackle House’.

CM: What is The Ramshackle House about? Does it have a linear narrative?
VA: ‘The Ramshackle House’ has a very simple story at its heart. Two people meet and negotiate the challenges and compromises of coming together, then a third person (a child) arrives and everything changes. It is linear, but with lots of space for us to use circus to reveal the underlying emotions rather than only joining the narrative dots.

CM: What themes does the show explore? What made you want to create a show with these themes?
VA: How we deal with change and instability. Originally when we began making the show we were interested in how families deal with external instabilities, the coping with living in a world that is environmentally, politically and economically unstable. As we went through the research with families we realised that we were less interested in presenting these external pressures and more interested in how people deal with the changes that occur when you want to / have to make space for other people in your life. The internal pressures of being a family became more interesting to us.

CM: What kind of circus skills can we expect to see on display?
VA: We work with aerial and acrobatic skills primarily but music, movement and design are just as important in creating the piece as the circus. We have three highly skilled acrobats in the show so the level of technique is impressive, there are some genuine wow moments, but if we have done our work well you will be carried by along by the piece as a whole rather than picking out individual moments.

CM: Who is the show aimed at?
VA: The show is aimed at families of all types. It is visual and playful so hopefully engaging for small children but it is heartfelt so will hopefully have something for parents and carers.

CM: How easy is it to tell a story with no words? How do you go about creating a narrative through movement, etc?
VA: Gathering pieces of information and forming a logic around them to make meaning is a basic human activity – we are always making stories with and without words.

When we first came to the UK, from Ghana, I didn’t speak English, so I spent a lot of time watching people; watching their gestures and their expressions to try and gain clues to what they were thinking and what was happening. I haven’t trained in theatre or as a writer so words are not my first port of call when it come to telling stories.

Circus adds an extra challenge, as any movement you can truly call circus will set outside the realm of normal action. When trying to tell a story with circus you are always riding a boundary between allowing the artist to express their virtuosity in service of the narrative and simply indulging the skill.

CM: This is part of your Building Stories Pushing Boundaries project; can you explain what that is?
VA: Building Stories Pushing Boundaries is a two year creative project which aims to develop new audiences and artists for contemporary circus in the Midlands, London and the South East. In the first year of the project we toured ‘Bedtime Stories’ to our partner venues, and delivered a series of audience development activities to help us reach beyond the traditional theatre-going audiences and to meet the new families who have helped us develop and refine our ideas for ‘The Ramshackle House’. The second year has been touring this piece, taking it back to the families who helped us create it.

CM: What other projects do you have in the planning stages?
VA: We have a show in development titled ‘See You Fall’, which will be for an adult audience. It is very early stages, but it will be a mix of circus, live music and stand up comedy and will likely be an interactive experience where the audience make choices that affect the narrative. In a Brexit/Trump era of increased division, create an experience that will bring audiences together to consider their role in rebuilding social, ideological and cultural divides.

CM: What’s coming up after the shows at Stratford?
VA: A big rest…and then we will be touring this show and ‘Bedtime Stories’ alongside creating ‘See You Fall’.

‘The Ramshackle House’ is on at Stratford Circus Arts Centre until 24 Dec. For more information and to book tickets, see this page here.

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Photo: Marcus Hessenberg