Chasing Smoke Is Pushing The Boundaries Of Circus

  • Written by  Nadia Jade
  • Friday, 14 September 2018 18:16
'Chasing Smoke' 'Chasing Smoke' Image © Rob Blackburn

The Australian circus scene is getting a very deadly shake-up with the arrival of 'Chasing Smoke', the only all-Indigenous contemporary circus crew touring Australia.

Lara Croydon is a Gudjala Kabulba woman, and one of six talented performers who are taking the show on tour. Lara is joined by the women of 'Chasing Smoke', Ally Humphris and Pearl Thompson, to perform a special excerpt of the show for Sydney Fringe Festival Audiences at the Legs Hub. For its Queensland debut, it will be presented as part of Brisbane Powerhouse programme The Bridge.

Lara chats about representation, ticking the black box, and running away with the circus.

So, what is the show about?
“This show is really about our stories and our histories and our hopes for the future. It’s our identities represented on stage – history, current lives, future, all told through circus, so you’re going to see lots of juggling, acrobatics, dance, hula hoops, you name it. It gets pretty exciting. We don’t hold back any parts of ourselves, so it's real and raw and 100 per cent true to ourselves.”

What has been the most amazing part of the process?
“Which bit! Aaaah! That is a real hard question. I guess the best part of the journey is the people we get to walk it with it, the rest of the cast, Natano, Rockie, Vincent, who helped with the start of the show. Our little family unit is what keeps us pushing.”

Image © Rob Blackburn

As a preview to their sold-out season at Darwin Festival, 'Chasing Smoke' performed to a room full of high schoolers. “That was the best! We all shed a tear, it’s something I know we all really care about, having kids seeing the show, so that maybe they don’t have to live through the same things we do, or maybe they can bypass it.

“One of the things I grew up with was not knowing much about history – because my school didn’t teach me, society didn’t teach me. And those little bits of exposure, that these kids get to look at us, and how we are all connected to community and homeland, and that these kids get to see that we can be connected in so many ways and it doesn’t make them any less of a black person.”

'Chasing Smoke' was developed out of the BLAKflip programme at Circus Oz in Melbourne, that works to support young Indigenous artists to enter the circus industry in Australia. At its debut, 'Chasing Smoke' won Best Contemporary Circus at the Greenroom Awards 2017.

Image © Rob Blackburn

“As the first all Indigenous circus show that exists, this work is important. Also, it represents Indigenous people in a way that we don’t often get to see ourselves on stage. It’s important that young ones can see themselves represented, also, so they know that they too can come and get involved in circus.”

Lara always wanted to be a circus artist, but that dream very nearly got squashed as a child.

“I wanted to be in the circus ever since I was a little kid, I had a picture book about the circus and I wanted to grow up and be that. We had one of those sessions where you had to pick what you wanted to be when you grew up, and I was like 'I want to be a circus performer', and they were like 'that’s not a real thing' [laughs]. And small impressionable me got my heart broken.

Image © Rob Blackburn 

“When I was a bit older, I did theatre, and body building, and then those two things came together, I started training at Vulcana and then the Circus Oz BLAKflip programme, and the rest, as they say, is history.”

So what does she want the audience to do after the show?

“Have conversations. Take a moment and think about the content of the show, and then tell everyone. Cause I think that our show sparks a lot of important conversations that need to be had. I think people will walk away really understanding that.”

'The Women Of Chasing Smoke' plays the Legs Hub from 28-30 September, 'Chasing Smoke' plays Brisbane Powerhouse 24 October-3 November.


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