An independent evaluator assessed the project, and audiences completed a post-show questionnaire. This snapshot is drawn from the findings.
Overall, the response from the regional touring schemes and local promoters to the project delivery was positive. The majority felt the tour was well-organised and sensitive to local needs. Most of the local promoters found it easy to attract an audience, and most shows were watched by between one hundred and two hundred people.
‘We are lucky to have a large sports field and very lucky with the weather. We sold 130 tickets and this was a real opportunity at the end of the main Covid restrictions for people to get out and enjoy an outdoor event.’ Local promoter
Overwhelmingly, audiences responded positively to the shows saying they wanted to see more circus. Interestingly, their curiosity was piqued because the work showed a different side to the artform. More than half of the audience said their experience was thought-provoking, with high percentages saying that they found the shows enjoyable, memorable and amusing.
The combination of cutting-edge shows staged outdoors proved to be a highly enjoyable experience for audiences. Safety, the setting, the quality of the shows and the freedom to walk around in a social environment were all contributing factors to their positive experiences.
‘The show was fantastic, really high quality and entertaining. Great fun for ages 3–93 and the whole of the community was really engaged. I felt the performance being outside added an extra dimension of togetherness, everyone appreciating the beautiful setting, the weather and being able to mingle safely in the interval and after the show.’ Audience member
Because the local promoters were successful in attracting audiences to memorable local events, the majority felt that they had increased confidence to promote circus in the future.
‘We would be more confident to do another outdoor show. Economics is the main issue for a small community.’ Local promoter
All of the artists interviewed expressed positive views of rural touring and a desire to continue taking work to audiences in rural locations.
The members of Simple Cypher spoke about how they enjoyed feeling part of a community and relished the constraints imposed on performing in an outdoor setting with no lights and minimum staging. Overall, the experience was deeper and more meaningful for them than touring to black box theatres one after another.
‘I liked the lack of tech. The lighting is whatever the daylight is. It is down to you as a performer to work with those variables. There is a nice dynamic with the audience. It is all quite freeing. It makes every show fresh. Every setting is completely different. Black box theatres are all the same. The only thing that changes is the audience. We performed in places with incredible views or a council playground. You don’t get that variety in indoor performances.’ Thorne (Simple Cypher)
Tilly Lee-Kronick commented that she liked having some of the control taken away and knowing that every performance was going to be different. It taught her to be less precious about things and more in the moment. She thought rural touring, and performing outdoors, was more interesting and human than performing in a theatre.
Company Zid liked being on the road each day and the variety of the audience reactions; some were quieter and more focused, others warmer and noisier.
Pirate Taxi by Pirates of the Carabina was created especially for the project. Shaena Brandel, one of the company’s joint Artistic Directors and a performer in the show, was very grateful to both Crying Out Loud and Take Art for supporting them to create a new piece of work.
‘The whole project felt really supportive. The production management was efficient, supportive and very relaxed.’ Shaena
She loved the flexibility of touring a small-scale show and valued spending time with the other artists. As a result of the project, Shaena is much more interested in rural touring and in exploring ways of making Pirates of the Carabina’s shows more self-sufficient, building on the experience of creating Pirate Taxi which had its own power supply, PA and mixing desk.
Following the completion of the tour, the partners reflected on all aspects of the pilot project. It is clear from the learning and feedback that there is a huge amount of positivity and enthusiasm to continue to develop and present circus for rural touring.