Extraordinary Bodies presents Human: a collage of intimate, funny, real life stories

Authored by Mary
Posted: Thursday, October 14, 2021 - 22:07

Performing at Theatre Royal Plymouth Funky Llama Festival, Human combines the visual spectacle of aerial circus and dance, film and a binaural soundtrack. Human is an antidote to anxiety, gently bridging the transition from being at home in a pandemic to live performance in a tender, quirky collage of lives past and now. The show has been created to be as accessible as possible.

Extraordinary Bodies is a collaboration between two distinct companies, Cirque Bijou and Diverse City. It brings together a circus company of disabled and non-disabled artists creating new, hybrid shows crisscrossing the boundaries of music, film, technology, circus and theatre. Human is a different show to those Extraordinary Bodies has presented previously because it was made during the pandemic and the company has evolved. 

During the pandemic lockdowns, Human was created through the sharing of stories in voice and video messages about the meaning, the uncertainty and the unknown of being human. To make Human, the team explored their experiences of the pandemic and were inspired by recollections of childhood memories, their mums, falling in love, life-changing moments and a love of sweets. 

The stories in Human are intimate, funny and celebratory, looking into the heart of these small moments that shape us. The show is separated into chapters in the film, such as A Short Interlude on Kissing and A Short Interlude on Sweets, with the artists’ physicality capturing the emotional quality of the stories on stage. 

The music is an original score by Ted Barnes incorporating live drumming and singing from on-stage performers with audio and music played through headphones, creating an intimate relationship between performer and audience. Extraordinary Bodies is committed to making circus accessible for everybody. The show is BSL interpreted by well-known Deaf actor David Ellington who is present on film, becoming a conjoined part of the show.

Touring with Extraordinary Bodies was not feasible for performer John Kelly, so his character appears on screen only. Onstage, another character enters the show to deliver a parcel, manifesting the artists’ ever-present fear of performance opportunities drying up due to the impact of Covid-19.

Performing artists Tilly Lee-Kronick and Jonny Leitch are a unique circus double act. They combine wheelchair dance, floor work on hands and, new aerial doubles choreography. A new, specialist double trapeze was co-created with the artists to enable them to tell Jonny’s story of his relationship with twin sister Becky. 

Performer Jonny Leitch says: “The relationship and artistry I have with Tilly has always stemmed from us exploring new or wacky ideas on the trapeze or other circus equipment. We explore storytelling in new ways through movement. The equipment that facilitates our artistic expression is essential to communicating with our audience and encourages us to be even more innovative in our performance. Human gets to the heart of how we are all feeling right now and I can't wait to share it with everyone and tour around the country.” 

Claire Hodgson MBE, Artistic Director, Diverse City said: “Human is a poetic record of our time. Weaving together real life stories through circus, combined with our use of technology, has created a show that connects with its audiences in a soothing, sublime, immersive way. It was important for us to work with our performers in a way that suited them and make a show that is accessible without compromise. With Extraordinary Bodies, we can experiment and develop work that is genre-defying as well as gravity-defying.” 

After each performance, as part of the show, the audience is encouraged to meet some of the team informally and ask questions about what they’ve seen and share their own stories about what it means to them to be human. 

Funky Llama Festival 2021 will be held in Central Park, Plymouth on Friday 29 and Saturday 30 October. Tickets are on sale to the public now on the TRP website and can be booked online or by calling the Theatre Royal Plymouth Box Office on 01752 267222.

The festival is a totally inclusive event that is programmed by our differently abled Funky Llama Steering Group. Funky Llama offers people opportunities to actively participate in creating and delivering a programme of inclusive arts events. Monthly socials and creative workshops are designed to develop well-being, enhance life skills, promote social networking and reduce isolation. You can find out more about Theatre Royal Plymouth’s Funky Llama group here.