When it comes to circus critique, writing is the easy bit. I may have mentioned this before, but it can be really difficult to track down credits for performers after visiting a show. I have a personal antagonism towards reviews that refer obliquely to ‘some performers’, ‘two acrobats’, or ‘a female aerialist’ rather than providing names, but I fully understand why most critics will do just that if no cast lists are readily available.
Last Sunday I was on my way to visit the new Chaplin’s Circus in St. Albans when my car blew a tyre. I pulled over to the hard shoulder without incident, and impressed myself with the ability to actually change the wheel. Unfortunately my timings were also blown, and I was unable to make the show but, on the plus-side, I found myself near Aldershot – where I knew Circus Zyair were performing – and re-routed to see them instead.
There is a review on its way, but first I need to spend long hours of investigative journalism, trawling the internet for clues as to who was involved on the day. The job of the critic is multi-faceted; providing potential audiences and other interested parties with a flavour of the day’s entertainment may not require precise credits but, if the writing is to prove useful to the industry in the future, it needs to be more specific. Next season the line-up will be different, and the independent artists will be looking for work elsewhere. And, for anyone trying to trace performance histories and contexts, we need to leave some breadcrumbs.
So far, I’m hunting for details of the nerve-shattering Wheel of Death finalé, thinking it might be an easy place to start. If I scroll down the Circus Zyair Facebook page, I come to an image from 28th April crediting Los Marinos. It’s relatively recent, and looks like the act I saw. Great. Next, I Google the artists and the act, and come up with a lot of YouTube options, and a few articles about Columbian father and son team Ernesto and Chico Marin, who perform Wheel of Death and tightwire as Los Marinos (or, sometimes, Los Marinhos). This is good, but… the act I saw was performed by a young man and a young woman. Is this maybe a sister? A girlfriend?
When I limit my search to content created within the last year, I find another video titled ‘Trio Marinos High Wire‘. Here are Ernesto and Chico – and a female. The video has been uploaded by one Eliana Marin Pinto, and includes the words ‘Contact us‘ and a phone number in the information. I deduce that this must be the female performer, as she has also uploaded 6 other clips. When I Google her name, however, nothing else appears of any relevance. And one of the other videos in her playlist is ‘Trio Marinos Vanessa Silks‘. Is my mystery woman Vanessa?
I have sent a message via the Zyair Facebook page asking for artist names, but haven’t yet heard anything back. (Trying to talk to anyone after the show seemed a bad idea, as the tent was already on it’s way down to move everything on to their next stand, quick turn-arounds being what they are). I’m loathe to put up a review without names, so will be sending an email and hoping for some more details to add to the mix. Until then, suffice to say, I enjoyed my afternoon with them.
I do enjoy this digging around too, in a way, as it deepens my knowledge of the ever-changing circus world. It is frustrating though, that I’m spending hours of unpaid labour chasing something that could have so easily have been provided on a programme, poster or webpage. I know that other people seek out information on specific performers and circus companies too, because I have access to the search terms that bring visitors to this site – my aim is to provide the information they’re looking for (I would love to get an interview with the elusive young contortionist Alina Ruppel, for example, but so far keep coming up with dead ends).
I’m looking forward to the launch of a UK Circus Research Network in the not too distant future, and continuing my advocacy for better visibility for circus artists – and more informed criticism. Can you imagine anyone publishing a review of Hamlet using the current standard circus format?
‘You won’t believe your eyes as one performer convincingly pretends to be mad, while one of the female performers elegantly drowns.’
For Circus Zyair, watch this space…