For most, going to a circus show involves suspending disbelief and being prepared to see something you’ve never seen before. When a pair of circus veterans put together a show featuring skills and collaborations that even they have never seen before, the audience is in for a real treat.
As a duo, Daniel and Kimberly Craig are better known as the Street Circus. They’ve taken their act around the world, performing on streets and in theatres, and have racked up an impressive 30 years of combined experience.
This weekend, Sept. 5-7, they will be debuting Moshi Moshi, their first production, and a collaboration with Tokyo circus duo Funny Bones. While only about one in 10 people have caught on to the meaning of the title, after the show, audience members will leave with an expanded vocabulary.
“Moshi Moshi is a Japanese colloquialism. Usually, it’s a slang way of picking up the phone rather than Konichiwa. [Moshi Moshi] the show is themed around communication and especially nonverbal communication, and we make use of a phone as a prop through a lot of it, so it’s also a nod to the Japanese in our show, the Japanese performers in the show itself, and it being a greeting, meaning communication” said Daniel.
Moshi Moshi will showcase acrobatics, a giant Cyr wheel, and many different styles of comedy that have cross-pollinated between the two acts’ unique styles, and informed by the wide backgrounds of the four performers (all told, the two acts boast members from Canada, the US, the UK, and Japan).
The circus performance circuit is similar to other touring professions, where friendships span wide distances and larger festivals act as hubs for performers to catch up and reconnect. The Street Circus first befriended Funny Bones at the World Busker’s Festival in Christchurch, New Zealand.
At first glance, their performance styles are not intuitively complimentary. Funny Bones features more miming, silent clowning, and comedy; The Street Circus are far more vocal, with large props and physical circus skills. Yet every time they came together, they found some common ground.
“We ran into each other quite often and basically we collaborated a lot. We ended up being in a lot of circumstances where we would be able to work together and honestly every time that we collaborated, we found out that our skills sets really complimented each other really well”, said Daniel. “And it led us to thinking, like, what could we do with a budget, and with money?
The idea for this weekend’s circus extravaganza has been carefully cultivated over many years, across many continents, and despite seemingly insurmountable communication barriers. When Daniel and Kimberly first took their act to Japan, they relied heavily on Funny Bones hosts Chris Peters and K-Bow Miyagi to get them through their daily lives. “We couldn’t speak a lick of Japanese and we can’t read anything, it’s written in three alphabets,” said Daniel.
In preparation for their second venture, Kimberly sought the help of an old Japanese pen pal, who fastidiously marked up and corrected a Japanese version of their show’s script, and sent an mp3 version of it as well for Kimberly to practice with. Chris and K-Bow joined in over Skype, to correct the pronunciation.
The circuitous routine of traveling abroad and meeting performers from elsewhere allowed Daniel and Kimberly to play around with their show, and reflect on the reception of the physicality and comedy of circus in different milieus. In Japan, Kimberly noted that the audiences have a longer attention span for street circus, in a more European fashion. Because the audiences are more attentive, the kind of big attention-grabbing pop-up that might succeed in Canada is less necessary.
“You don’t have to be so concerned with losing the attention span, so it gives you the ability to be a little more playful. We thought it was really fun to have a focussed audiences, so if we brought all of us back here and did a show [in a theatre], what could we get away with without having to worry about the thirty-second attention span people have sometimes on the street?”
Over the last two years, Chris and K-Bow have also flown over to festivals in the greater Toronto Area, and fine-tuned their distinctly Japanese comedic style to appeal more to Canadian audiences. As much as it may sounds trite, Daniel emphasizes that their style of comedy is really not something we’ve had much exposure to in Canada – for audiences in Winnipeg, truly, “they’ve never seen anything like it.”
Daniel and Kimberly also hope to show off Winnipeg, as Funny Bones has also never quite seen anything like our prairie home. Along with trying deer meat for the first time, “we wanted to highlight not only some of Winnipeg’s qualities, but just the Manitoba quality. Head out and get them to experience a nice proper prairie evening with all the stars they never get to see, because Tokyo has such a huge amount of light pollution all the time”, said Daniel. “We have the best skies in the world”.
The Street Circus are also quick to boast of how supportive their hometown is of the arts, and of the burgeoning circus scene that’s growing by leaps and bounds. “It’s growing a lot and really quickly and people are pretty excited about it. There’s a circus club here, there’s a couple aerial dance schools, there’s a lot of enthusiasm,” said Daniel. “And there are a lot of people who are into circus, who really like it, even love it.”
“We’re excited about Winnipeg’s ongoing circus development. We’d ultimately like to be – as we perform less and stay here more, as we get older and older – a bigger part of the development, added Kimberly.
Come out and see what all the fuss is about from Sept 5-7 at the Gas Station Theatre. Tickets are $12 for general admission, and $10 for students, seniors and artists. The show starts promptly at 8pm on Sept 5 & 6, and at 3pm on Sept 7. Visit http://thestreetcircus.wix.com/moshi-moshi-1 for more.
Anastasia Chipelski is a freelance writer (among many other things) from Winnipeg, Mb. Follow her at www.anachips.wordpress.com or on Twitter @AnaChips