CORK’S Circus Factory is back for its fourth edition of ‘Pitch’d Circus & Street Arts Festival’ and this year, it really is bigger than ever.
Instead of running the festival over two weekends as was the norm, this year it started on September 2 and continues until September 26. The theme is imagining what art, culture, festivals and gatherings look like now and in the future.
The opening event of the festival was ‘Pure Daycent Chats’ and this event also takes place from September 9-12. As artistic director of Circus Factory and one half of the Lords of Strut, Cormac Mohally explains, ‘Pure Daycent Chats’, funded through Cork City Council Culture and Place Making, is about engaging the public.
It invites them to join the festival personnel at the Douglas Street Parklet by the Cork Flower Studio “for a cuppa and a chat”. The chat will focus on where participants live, what they love or hate about it, and how they see it in 100 years. People will also be asked about the funniest thing that’s happened to them on the streets of Cork.
As the Douglas Street Festival didn’t happen last year due to Covid and is not happening this year as businesses in the area are focusing on getting back on track, Cormac says that ‘Pure Daycent Chats’ will go some way towards compensating for its absence.
“We have a relationship with the place. The idea is that two storytellers will be setting up shop outside the flower shop with a gazebo there in case it rains. The public will be given teas and coffees as they come along for a chat,” he said.
Then, during the last weekend of September, there will be a pop-up street party with some shows taking place on Red Abbey Square including ‘Pure Daycent Rhymes’.
“We’re collaborating with Gary GMC of the Kabin in Knocknaheeny who’ll give us an original beat with a chorus based on the theme of where we all live, what we like about it, what we don’t like about it and how we see it in the future,” said Cormac.
“Our storytellers will have listened to people taking part in ‘Pure Daycent Chats’ over the two weekends. They’re going to interpret the material and retell the stories. We were thinking about recording it and creating a piece of audio. But we’re all digitally exhausted now so we thought it would be good to do it in the oral tradition, getting two people who have an ability to tell stories from the framework they’re given.”
You could say that Cormac ran away with the circus, although it wasn’t that literal. The Glasheen native, now living on the northside of Cork, got into trouble at 16 when he was arrested and fined for possession of drugs. He dropped out of school - Coláiste Spioraid Naoimh - at the age of 16. His parents were concerned about their youngest son.
“But I have a really good relationship with my parents who are proud of what I’m doing. I was juggling throughout my teens. I think the big change was when I joined circus school in Belfast when I was 19. Suddenly, I was doing something. It was a supportive environment.”
Cormac’s parents saw he had a sense of purpose and something to get up for in the morning. As part of the comedy duo, The Lords of Strut, Cormac and Cian Kinsella became Street Performance World Champions.
Cormac’s clowning around has paid dividends. And he continued to be resourceful even during the scary early days of Covid.
“When lockdown started, I was suddenly landed back in my house on the northside. It was the longest period of time I’d spent in the house. To keep fit, I started running. I got some funding to reinterpret how I saw my city and how I connected with it. I ran down alleyways, I jumped over walls, I saw bits of my city that I’d never seen before.
“I confined my running to 2kms. I decided I’d try and write my name using a running app. So I had to see how best I could run in a ‘C’ shape in the 2kms. Sometimes, it required me to jump over a wall. It also involved going to the Pitch and Putt club in Shanakiel. And as I ran around, I saw people painting their houses. So I reconnected not just with the streets around my area but also the people. I documented it in ‘My Covid Diary’ presented at the Firkin Crane.”
With The Lords of Strut, Cormac and Cian received a theatre development creation award. They spent a week working on a project in the Irish Aerial Creation Centre in Limerick.
“There were 15 of us including our caterer, director, stage manager and nine other players. We’re making a show called ‘The Dream Factory’. It’s an allegory dealing with climate anxiety for young people. It’s in development stage. We have the first draft script and we have just applied for presentation funding.
“If we get that, we’ll be presenting four shows in the Everyman in November, 2022. It’s what a Lords of Strut ensemble show looks like.”
Cormac says that as he and Cian are ageing, they can’t leap around the stage anymore.
“We’re going to be narrators, dropping in and out of different characters. We’ve got puppets, music, dance and theatre all coming into the room with different collaborators. We have a trampoline specialist as well as an aerial specialist.”
The lads have every angle covered!
For more on the upcoming festival see www.circusfactorycork.com.