Juggle a few balls and hop on a unicycle. Nobody mentioned breaking a sweat. And nobody mentioned aching afterwards, and that was just with the warm-up alone, never mind actually getting to grips with the Cyr wheel or the trapeze.
By the time I finished my sample workshop with director Cormac Mohally, down at Cork’s Circus Factory on Albert Quay, I was well and truly spent. Home to a bustling hive of activity, I took the plunge to see if maybe I have some inner performance skills lurking in my psyche. The jury, however, is still out I’m afraid.
The Circus Factory is Ireland’s only dedicated training space for physical performers and they have been busily working away since they relocated to their current premises last September. Members of the public are encouraged to come and try out some of the activities at their open sessions every Monday and Wednesday night.
“This isn’t a circus school, it’s a training space, but we do run workshops in different disciplines. We’re starting a summer camp this week for children and for culture night on Sept 20, we’re going to do another cabaret show and we’re also going to do a fund-it campaign for light and heat and to buy some proper lighting and insulate the building for winter,” said Cormac.
Jordan Walshe, a butcher from Youghal, is a regular to the Circus Factory and she has been coming here to perfect her techniques for the past year-and-a-half.
“It’s definitely a serious workout but it is amazing and really good. I come here about twice a week, and on my days off, to practice and take part in workshops. My friends have come to the open sessions too and they loved it. I’ve already performed at a Burlesque night too which was great fun,” Jordan said.
As a novice, I joined the rest of the members with warm-up exercises led by Sara who seriously put me through my paces. The leg stretch was the final straw for me, and time out was needed. I naively didn’t realise that you would need to warm up before trying out the different disciplines. Starting with the juggling, Cormac got me to juggle two balls which, of course, I thought would be easy. But it’s the technique that I didn’t get right. I think Cormac had his work cut out for him as I wasn’t getting to grips with the whole thing, and that was before he even introduced a third ball. He made it look so easy, but then it does take a lot of practice.
Realising he was dealing with someone who has no co-ordination, he put me on the giant hula hoops next, which I managed to do for a while until it fell to the floor. My excuse is that I haven’t done the hula-hoop in 20 years. It was time to move on again. Next stop was the unicycle. I found this difficult and I held on to Cormac for dear life, as I tried to sit on the saddle and hold the pedals while at the same time not propelling myself backwards. Believe me, it’s sounds easy but it’s tricky. At least I had my hand on the wall, but then again that didn’t stop me from falling backwards — not once, but three times. Thankfully I only injured my ego.
We moved on to the big guns with the Cyr wheel, a single circle where I had to stand in and rotate around the room. Now this was exhilarating, and after a few false starts I managed to do it. Well, for about 30 seconds before I tumbled out of it. Cormac is a great tutor and has patience in abundance.
By now the adrenalin was pumping and he suggested I try the trapeze. The last time I hung off bars was up at the local GAA pitch with the makeshift goalposts and that didn’t end well. However, I was up for the challenge and once I managed to propel myself with my arms, Cormac held onto me until I was able to lift my legs over and then I dangled down.
Now this was a complete rush and I was well chuffed with myself. Maybe I’m not so bad after all. Is there a career in acrobatic performance for me down the line?
Well, Cormac might beg to differ.
To finish off my induction I followed Sara’s lead on the trampette and that was enjoyable too.
As for doing handstands and tumbling, well I’ll just park that ’til the next day.
* The Circus Factory will be running Circus summer camps for children aged 7-13 all this week and on Jul 15-19. For more information email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 089-4823034.