LIVELY performer Lucy Hopkins will bring her award-winning clown show, Le Foulard, to St Peter’s in Cork city on September 21 as part of Pitch’d Circus Arts Festival, now in its third year.
The festival, presented by the Circus Factory Cork, includes circus acts, street performances, aerial arts, comedy and workshops.
Fresh from the Edinburgh Festival, performing a sold-out solo show, Lucy is looking forward to putting on Le Foulard, which is about an artist trying to make a beautiful work of art. In this one-woman show, created in 2013 and shown all over Europe and in Australia. Lucy performs a number of characters “with nothing but a silk scarf. Then the characters trash the show and it’s a nightmare.”
Lucy will also perform her latest show, The Ceremony of Golden Truth, which she describes it as an interactive sacred ceremony made by a clown/witch/deity.
“It’s about gathering people together and having a funny and stupid, light-hearted time, while holding space for sacred feeling. I don’t think the sacred needs to be heavy. We can own it in ourselves. It doesn’t need to be attached to any organisation or religion. It’s just part of being alive.
“It grew from doing interactive work and finding ways to play with ceremony, because we’re sort of starved of it.”
But Lucy points out that activities people do together such as gathering around a fire or singing in a pub or going out with friends to dance all night are great ways of coming together.
“I guess my argument is that all of that is sacred. It’s not just about being in church.”
Brought up in Leicestershire, Lucy and her comedian partner, Bob Slayer, a facilitator for artists and alternative comedy, travel widely to perform their individual acts. Bob is “the brains behind the ‘Heroes of Fringe at Edinburgh’ which allows artists to be part of the Edinburgh Fringe Festival without it costing them thousands,” says Lucy.
The couple, currently living out of suitcases, staying in guest houses and a caravan, are on the hunt for a field where we can create an arts centre and a base.
“Living on the wind is all well and good but at a certain point, you think you’d like to grow a tree.” Lucy has never owned a house and seems happy to be without that tie, preferring to “operate a lifestyle with practices that mean we can generate a living and help others to generate their living”.
Through travelling and meeting different people on whom she can try out material, Lucy is grateful for organisations like the Circus Factory Cork.
“They allow you to try things out. Without their shows, you couldn’t, as an artist, develop anything. You need to be able to try to take risks and you need to be able to fail. When that happens, you can get better. It’s really important to have creative spaces. It’s not just about polished, finished work.”
Lucy will also be running workshops including a silent workshop.
“That’s great fun. Performers need to be able to see the audience and need to be seen. You need to have all of your senses kicking in and be really aware. Humans are very aware.
“As soon as you step on a stage, you can feel the audience feel everything we do. The performer thinks through their body. The audience picks up on a vibe.
“We’re all more sensitive than we give ourselves credit for. In the silent workshop, by taking out speech, the senses really kick in. You have to look at each other and respond to people’s movement.
“Being very still and perhaps making a slight move of the head is incredibly expressive. It’s a kind of fast track way to activate those muscles, practise them and regain confidence. Less is more and we all know how to do it.”
The workshops are aimed at performers. “But they can be for anyone who thinks they sound interesting and would like to try them out.
“Workshops work best when there’s a mix of people. This is because performers accumulate loads of bad habits, ways to hide themselves rather than reveal themselves. Non-performers learn from the experiences and skills of the performers.”
In the type of work that Lucy does, she tries to have people’s humanity revealed and shared.
“That’s the best thing in any performance. You don’t have to be a trained performer to do that,” she said.
Last year at the festival in Cork, Lucy gave a silent workshop.
“About thirty people were in it. I tried to cap it at fifteen but people kept showing up. It was hilarious.
“What I love about Cork is the really good community vibe. People are ready to chip in with all sorts of interesting initiatives. People who are interesting in just connecting with others can take part.”
Working with the body is good for the head.
“As soon as you step on stage, you’re interacting with a body. We all hold tension in our bodies. Psychology is all well and good and it’s interesting to get a window in on things. But that doesn’t tend to resolve issues, whereas when you get into your body, you can directly work on it by realising that you’re holding tension. You can stretch a bit, let your body be stupid and accept your body exactly as it is.”
Well-suited to using her body as a means of expression, Lucy says she is “hyper-mobile”.
“But I look more flexible than I actually am. I’m by no means a physical example of great health. I’ve just come out of the Edinburgh festival. We drank so much coffee and alcohol. My big triumph is that I didn’t smoke tobacco during the festival. I’m really pleased with myself.”
Pitch’d Circus Arts Festival is on from September 20-29 in various venues.