Circus Smirkus: Blanc de Blanc takes a twist on tradition

Blanc de Blanc

In a world of schedules, traffic jams and clocking on, it’s always refreshing to chat to someone who has genuinely run away to join the circus. In the case of Spencer Novich, it was more like finding home. We spoke to the clown, contortionist and consummate performer ahead of the Gold Coast leg of the Blanc de Blanc tour, coming our way as part of Bleach* Festival 2017.

Spencer stumbled into the performing arts as a teenager.

“I basically think my parents were looking for some way to get rid of me over the summer,” he laughs.

“They’d heard of a camp program called Circus Smirkus through a friend. I started doing it and sort of fell in love with it.”

Not just a camp activity, Circus Smirkus brings together high calibre young performers on a gruelling 80 show summer tour. Spencer credits it with his entrance into the world of professional performance.

“It’s the only program I know of that tours in a big top,” he says.

“It was my outlet when I was sixteen, seventeen. Many of [the performers] go onto professional circus training. It really gave me the legs to do what I do.”

We chat about the idea of connecting with something that’s outside the norm. Many artists find themselves growing up on the fringes, feeling like freaks until they find their niche. I wonder if Spencer’s path looked something like that.

“You’re reading my diary,” he says.

“I still do feel that way to some degree.

My work in the show is a bit eccentric and weird, so to find a home for something that a lot of theatre people say isn’t theatre – even a lot of circus people say it isn’t traditional circus – is amazing.

Traditional circus or not, Blanc de Blanc still celebrates the art of clowning. If you asked a bunch of different people what makes a great clown, you’d almost certainly get answers like good comedic timing, animated physicality. Spencer’s answers – much like the man himself – are a little different.

“Listening to the audience, being honest with yourself and being open,” he says.

“I continually try to listen harder, continually open myself up more and be as honest as I can be, and usually that results in fun work that I enjoy performing.”

The show’s artistic director Scott Maidment is known for being a collaborative operator. In the case of this incarnation of Blanc de Blanc, he has given Spencer a fabulous opportunity to contribute from the other side of the stage.

“He’s the ultimate creator, but he lets me be a sort of little guy on his shoulder,” says Spencer.

“I talk to him about stuff, and throw in ideas. He’s just so very accepting, and a great collaborator. He asks a lot of his artists for input. It’s super rewarding for me.”

So would a career in the creation of shows be on the cards perhaps, once Spencer’s performing days are over?

“Absolutely!” he declares.

“As you do more and more projects you want to have more and more creative impact on them.”

Blanc de Blanc is champagne cabaret. It’s glamorous, giddy and most definitely for adults only. I’m curious how the show differs from a performer’s perspective, to more traditional type of event.

“This is a pretty wild production,” he says.

“When we were first building the show, my parents ended up flying to Australia to see it and when they bought their tickets I was definitely nervous about it, because some of the content is risqué and out there.

“But once all the elements came together, the music, lighting, artistic direction, it’s really just fun and accessible. And that’s so cool to take these things that might seem shocking or risqué and work them so that my parents might be comfortable watching it.”

Blanc de Blanc runs from 29 March to 16 April at the Spiegeltent in Victoria Park. Book tickets at tickets.blancshow.com.

IMAGE (c) Daniel Boud

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