Adam: Nadia and I wanted to try something new for this review, so we’re sitting here, outside Flipside Circus in Alderley, having seen Proximity by Kelsey Laura. So, Nadia, initial thoughts and feelings?
Nadia: One of the things that struck me was that I knew that the subject material was going to be heavy, but I honestly just didn’t anticipate the effect on the audience. There was a girl next to me who as quite overcome and started crying and, quite honestly, it made me feel…frustrated, or taken aback, which was, I don’t know, a weird thing. I had this uncomfortable feeling that catapulted me into the uncomfortableness of the show. I was really interested.
Adam: Can you articulate what exactly made you feel frustrated?
Nadia: I don’t know, there was something about it that I didn’t anticipate, the effect that it would have on people in the audience and on me. Like the keys in the hand. The keys in the hand is an excellent motif and I love it and it’s something that I’ve done myself. I haven’t actually had to hit somebody with those keys in my life, but I’ve carried them in my hands many, many times in my life.
Adam: Many people have, yeah.
Nadia: And I have wondered to myself, could I actually hit someone with them if I have to?
Adam: Yeah! It’s almost like the keys in the hand that give you some strength. You hold them in there, thinking that this is going to protect me, but you hope that you never have to use it, because you don’t know what you’d actually do in that kind of situation.
It gave the piece that tenseness. As soon as you saw Kelsey on the stage at the beginning, with those keys in hand, it immediately set the tone. The on top of that, you had a sound track where people actually talked about their experiences with sexual harassment and assault … heavy!
Adam: So the show is about sexual assault
Nadia: And consent.
Adam: And exploring people’s experiences of it through the motif of circus. So let’s talk about that; do you think that circus was the right form to talk about a topic like this?
Nadia: I don’t think there is an ‘appropriate’ forum to talk about this. You can use any modality to explore it. I enjoyed it, I liked the use of the trapeze. I like the use of end point and sometimes it was rough. The eggshells was interesting. Obviously the metaphor of the eggshells very apparent, very early on. I thought it was a very brave work. Really brave to pick such a challenging topic and put so much of yourself into it. I don’t know if the audience could tell, but I could tell when it was Kelsey speaking, and so the stories were personal, it was a very personal show.
Adam: Yeah, that was one of things that made it so powerful for me was knowing that many of the stories that were told were Kelsey speaking about her own experiences, so that added a layer for me.
One thing for me that was quite amazing and what impressive was Kelsey’s performance. I’ve seen her perform a very times, but that the time that I’ve seen her most completely in the moment, completely in character for that whole show. She held the audience completely. There was not one moment where she dropped out of it at all.
Nadia: No one looked away.
Adam: No one looked away, no. She held that audience in the palm of her hand for that whole entire show and I think that was why it was so impactful. She stared you in the eye and spoke about this taboo subject that most people don’t know how to talk about.
Nadia: It was impactful without being a punch in the face.
Adam: Tell me about that. With this topic, you could go for the darkest stories, the really traumatising stories, but she make a very distinct choice about where she wanted to go.
Nadia: Yes, it was upfront, yet she didn’t pull punches. There was no edging away from the topic and all it’s about, yet it felt gentle.
Adam: I agree with you. I really liked the use of the trapeze, it terms of the mix between it being an apparatus you have to balance. There were metaphors of strength, of balance and the tension created by someone balancing.
Nadia: And don’t forget the box full of secrets, wide open at the end of the show, to be exposed. How rare is that?
Adam: and it was definitely something that impacted upon the audience. You could see that everyone there was touched by what happened in the piece, to the point where some people were in tears afterwards.
Nadia: I enjoyed it being inside. I would have also loved to see it outside, which would have brought a certain desolateness to the piece. This week, because of the weather, it had to be moved inside. For me, I always enjoy theatre, circus, performance to be in an enclosed space. There’s something about the outside and the inside that’s important. I wouldn’t have like to have seen it outside, just to see if there would have been that same ‘inside’ when performed in an open space.
Adam: Me too, I think it would have been a completely different show, because for me the performance inside, in the intimate space of the Little Tivoli here at Flipside Circus in Newmarket it was incredibly intimate. Kelsey was right in front of us for the entire piece, and there was no way you could look away from the performance. You felt every single moment of it, because you were right there with her for the whole show. I would wonder if it would lose some of that impactfulness being inside. I liked that it was really intimate, I liked that it was really close, because it brought really brought you into the performance, it really brought you into those stories.
Nadia: Yeah. The door was closed and in that space we talked about those things that are often left unspoken. It’s rare to have any open discussion about this stories. I suspect that it would have taking some time to collect those stories – Kelsey would have had to create a safe environment, of course, consent is implicit in those conversations as well.
Adam: Kelsey has mentioned that she has about 11 hours of conversations that she has massaged down into a 30 minute show. So, there’s potential for this work to grow and expand. There’s obviously a lot in there that she could work with. After the show tonight, Kelsey mentioned that she would like to expand on the work, maybe bring in a couple more acrobats, so it would be interesting to see how it could grow and develop if there were more people involved, or if might be more powerful as a one woman show.
Nadia: Yeah. I found it interesting how I did tap into the conversation while watching the show, this very topical conversation of ‘me too’ and other large scale movements happening at the moment, even the vote happening in Ireland that just closed a few hours ago and we’re still waiting on the outcome from. I was tapping into them during the show and all of these conversations about consent that are happening around the world. I personally didn’t relate to my own experiences while I was watching, I saw the show as part of this conversation. I think that’s why I wasn’t taken aback, or why I didn’t feel too uncomfortable while watching. There was a part of me that wanted to watch the show as a part of this conversation about topic, rather than it being personal for me.
Adam: So, it didn’t take you to a place where you wanted to explore your own experiences?
Nadia: No. I wasn’t going there. Ha! I don’t think there is a single person who doesn’t have an experience that they couldn’t relate to when watching this piece. There were many universal themes.
Adam: Absolutely, I think it worked on many levels. I was speaking to a man in the audience who talked about his own experiences quite openly, the first time that we’ve ever talked about anything like that. He talked about his own experiences of sex and consent and times when he realised that the person he was with was not into it in the same way that he was and how he’s learnt to read these experiences and make sure that he checks in with the other person and changing gears if it’s needed and stop. This topic is something that we don’t talk to our friends and family members, our partners even, this idea about what is good and safe and what feels good for us, what consent is, all of this stuff.
Nadia: We kind of only talk about it in retrospect, in private places.
Adam: Absolutely! And, often when things go really bad we might talk about it, but, and this was a good point raised in the show, people place blame upon themselves for what happened. They wonder, should I have done things differently? So, I think that’s what’s great about the show is that it highlights a really important and topical conversation that needs to be had, that people need to think about. Particularly the men in the audience, because it’s something that many men don’t think about.
Nadia: Yeah whereas it’s a default state of being for most women. I’ve very proud of her for tackling what many would see as an unfathomable topic to approach as an artist on any level. And to take that on so young, and for her first solo, total kudos.
Adam: Absolutely! And not a common topic to tackling through New Circus. So I think Proximity is a very ambitious and powerful piece of work. I’m very impressed and looking forward to what Kelsey will come up with next.
Proximity was performed at Flipside Circus as part of Anywhere Theatre Festival 2018.
Performer and Creator | Kelsey Laura
Director | Lara Croydon – Play On Productions
Sound Editor | Shelby Neufeld
Technical Operator | Joshua Adams
Marketing | Shannon Stuart
Graphic Design | Chelsea Zanki