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Tandem: bringing games to life with circus

Since 2014, Tarah Carey and Tim Rutty have been performing together with their project Gravity Dolls which seeks to take full use of Rutty’s circus background and Carey’s experience in theatre. But with Tandem they decided to take a bigger circus focus.

“We applied, a bit unsure whether they would take us because it’s a theatre festival and this is a circus show. My life in Boxes was very theatre and circus, it was very narrative driven and might have fit more consistently in their recent programming but they took a chance on Tandem.”

They developed the show from a shared nostalgia for games, specifically board games and video games. As well as breaking down some of the boundaries between the audience and the performers, “It’s gonna be quirky and spontaneous and a bit absurd and it is suitable for all ages,” he says.

For the Gravity Dolls, Tandem is a slight departure from their previous work, “We like to push the boundaries a little bit on what people expect to see on stage. For our first show, My Life in Boxes, we were focused on blending narrative and circus. There was a full script there and we spent quite a long time training each other up in acting and circus to tackle that show properly.”

“The focus in this one isn’t narrative but it’s in the spontaneous and interactive side of the show. So there’s quite a lot that the audience gets to influence and change in the show, which is quite exciting.”

The work combines circus and theatre elements with audience participation to create the final show and it includes a lot of audience participation.

“We’ll be playing a giant game of chess where me and Tara animate the pieces. So the audience member will choose a piece and we can decide then what to do with that piece that they’ve chosen, put on the hat and do some tumbling, do some partner work, any time that we have to take another person’s piece then there is some sort of acrobatic body slam that happens, which then flys the other person off the board.

“It’s quite simple for the audience. There’s one moment in the show where we’re playing Jenga. We’ve got these giant Jenga blocks that Tara is standing on top of and then we get the audience members to pull the pieces out. So they’re playing Jenga just like normal, the only skills they need to have is to be able to pull out the blocks successfully without toppling Tara over.”

For Tandem, Rutty and Carey have brought on two new team members, artist and guitarist Mathew Brown as well as theatre and circus performer Kate Fryer as director. For the Gravity Dolls they see the festival as a way to expand their audience and entertain a new group that may not normally attend a circus performance.

“The thing that we were really drawn to with Poppy Seed was the mentoring and teaching side of things. It’s not just like, ‘Ok, here’s a venue and here’s money. Go make a show.’ They really are quite involved in teaching us things to do with marketing and producing shows. We’re looking at it going, ‘This is something that could be really beneficial for us to help us move into that bigger scale of company,’ and we applied.”

Through that mentoring and process of involvement, the Gravity Dolls team have been able to meet with the other festival participants and get to know about their work. Because of this interaction, Rutty isn’t only excited for his show. “I’m really looking forward to Romeo is Not the Only Fruit, it seems like it’s going to be a lot of fun and very political and right up our alleys.”

Gravity Dolls will perform Tandem at Chapel Off Chapel from Tuesday November 28 until Saturday December 9, as part of Poppy Seed Festival.