After a successful first year debuting at Adelaide Fringe 2019, eclectic duo Scott and Chantelle Reed are back this year for the festival with a brand-spanking, new show - DYSTOPIA - as part of their independent circus and physical theatre organization CircAxe.
The essence of DYSTOPIA will revolve around the tale of the Caliginous Empire, where there will be themes of a post-apocalyptic, war-torn, dystopian future Earth that has been seized by a dark warlord and is inhabited by otherworldly creatures and halflings. Promising a "fresh and unique take on performing arts and live entertainment", DYSTOPIA will be bringing together the talents of live guitar, original music, circus, and physical theatre on-stage. Audiences of the show can expect to be treated to a range of skilled acts, including aerials and floor and flow disciplines, which will be complemented by a fantastical style of virtuoso guitar playing.
In anticipation of their upcoming performance, I was fortunate enough to conduct an e-interview with Scott and Chantelle, where we talked all things CircAxe and DYSTOPIA - have a read of our exchange below:
Tema: Can you please tell us a bit about yourselves, Chantelle & Scott? What are your personal stories? Chantelle & Scott: We met 14 years ago when we were teenagers and began dating soon after. We met through our High School, so you could say we're the quintessential "High School sweethearts". 14 years on and we've been married for 8 years and have a 4-year old son. Scott started playing guitar at 14 years old, so was always into music. Chantelle started circus training 6 years ago and we pursued those passions individually, until around a year ago. Being able to put a show together never really occurred to us as a realistic opportunity until recently, as we'd focussed more on having a career, travelling the world, and building a home and family together.
Tema: What inspired you to create a show together?Chantelle & Scott: Having settled into family life, we began to re-engage in our artistic passion areas again. Scott used to play in bands around Adelaide, but hadn't performed live in around 10 years. Chantelle had become a Circus teacher and had been performing in some showcase events. It was quite natural for us to combine the two artforms and we felt as though we could create something very unique but also very effective. Having thought about it, we came to realise that Circus and Heavy Metal music complement each other very well and it wasn't something we'd seen anyone else doing.
Tema: What is the story of CircAxe and what does it represent? Chantelle & Scott: CircAxe is a play on words. "Circ" representing the circus element and "Axe", being a common nickname for a guitar, representing the guitar element. CircAxe, of course, sounds a lot like the word Circus so we thought it was a clever way of describing in one word exactly what we represent. Scott also fancies himself as a Dad joke aficionado.
Tema: How did you execute the brilliant idea of combining the art of circus & physical theatre with your unique (and honestly, fantastic!) genre of music? Scott: I really appreciate you saying that! I've always been into Heavy Metal music and lead guitarists in particular. I love using guitar as the lead instrument and melody maker in lieu of vocals and had often thought about making a symphony using guitar as the primary instrument. What we're doing is essentially an extreme, edgy take on a ballet or opera - in that we're telling a story through a musical score and a performance art. However, instead of using ballerinas and an orchestra playing classical music, we're using circus artists and Heavy Metal music to tell the story. It's been really awesome for me (musically speaking), because it's allowed me to create a unique style of music. You can hear the Heavy Metal elements, of course. But, there's a lot more to it, as I've really had to consider how to portray certain emotions in order to tell a story that fits succinctly with what the circus artists are doing. I've enjoyed getting feedback from people that didn't like Metal music initially but ended up appreciating what we've created. Collaborating with this group of Circus artists has been easy - they're all very talented and already had a great understanding of musicality. We're really proud of our uniqueness.
Tema: How were you hoping for the specific acts of DYSTOPIA to resonate with the theme of the show? Chantelle: DYSTOPIA as an overarching concept is a dark, alternate reality. Each act serves to create a fantastical, eerie, yet emotive showpiece that formulates the greater storyline. I believe that Circus as an art form lends itself so well to producing something wondrous and seemingly not of this Earth.
Tema: How long have you been in the performing arts scene and what has the experience been like so far? Chantelle & Scott: It's been around a year since creating our own enterprise. Everyone in our show has many years of overall experience performing, but around a year as far as this particular project is concerned. We've all performed in the Adelaide Fringe before as well as the Adelaide Guitar Festival and recently in the Back 2 Back Festival - it's all been really positive experiences so far. CircAxe is a relatively new company and it isn't easy to establish yourself as an artist in Adelaide, but we're doing this because it's genuinely what we love doing. At this stage in our performing careers, we're just hoping to show as many people as possible what we're about.
Tema: What is the basic premise of DYSTOPIA, without giving too much away? Chantelle & Scott: "The short version is as follows; The Earth's resources have been bled dry, ravaged by war and greed. Humanity has failed to heed the warnings of the end time. The Earth as we know it is destroyed. From the ashes, supernatural beings led by the King and newly crowned Queen of Darkness rise to inhabit the Caliginous Empire - DYSTOPIA. We're currently working on a visual art project, as well, with Adelaide artist Mike Stone, which we are hoping will tell the story of DYSTOPIA in more detail leading up to Fringe. People will be able to find this on our socials.
Tema: What can people expect from attending DYSTOPIA?Chantelle & Scott: We describe ourselves as a "Heavy Metal - Circus - Opera". You can expect a dark, fantastical production featuring highly technical guitar playing over a heavy, emotive, and intricate musical production. Couple that with a diverse cast of highly accomplished, award-winning circus artists. We have quite the spectrum of circus performers in this show too. You'll be able to see Lyra (Aerial Hoop), Hula, Contemporary Acro Dance, Trapeze, Aerial Silks, Aerial Hammock, Juggling, Contortion and Fire Spinning.
Tema: Who would you say is your target audience? Chantelle & Scott: To be perfectly honest, we haven't targeted a particular audience group. We've been totally focused on perfecting our craft and putting something together that we believe in. We just hope people enjoy it. We'd say if you enjoy going to the circus, seeing live music, or going to the theatre, you'll enjoy our show. If you want to see something unique and original, check us out. Fringe time is the perfect time to explore and experience something new!
Tema: How did you get involved with the Adelaide Fringe (AF)? Chantelle & Scott: Being Adelaide locals, we are well aware of the significance of the Adelaide Fringe and have always wanted to participate. It's crazy to think that we have the world's second biggest Arts Festival right here in Adelaide. Many of our performers have been involved with the Adelaide Fringe for a long time and what better platform is there for us to express ourselves?
Tema: As a returning Adelaide Fringe performance team, what are you hoping to expect from this year's participation in the festival? Chantelle & Scott: Our ultimate goal is to develop into a sought-after entertainment experience. We hope to build our brand, gain broader exposure and some recognition within the Performing Arts community. We also really enjoy checking out as many other shows as we can during Fringe season and meeting other artists.
Tema: What do you think makes DYSTOPIA a must-watch show? Scott: I'm not aware of anyone else doing what we do, where we are able to combine so many different elements into a succinct theatrical production. We have a little something for everyone - live music, circus, fire - certainly all of the things I love to see in a Fringe show. As someone who's dedicated their life to music, this is the best show that I've ever put together and the circus crew blows my mind with what they're able to do. It's truly awesome playing alongside them!
Tema: What made you decide on having a very small / limited run of the show for the upcoming Adelaide Fringe season? Chantelle & Scott: There's a few factors. This is our passion project. We all lead busy lives. Alongside our performance season, we're all still working full-time, part-time, teaching, and parenting, so availability plays a part, as does cost. Like we've said, we're a relatively new enterprise and we're totally self-funded, so it made sense to us to have a condensed run in 2020 and build upon that. We'll be looking to participate in other festivals and events and would love to be a part of the Adelaide Fringe in 2021 as well.
Tema: How did you score your venue and what attracted you to it as the space for your show? Does it accommodate well for the aerials acts in particular? Scott: In line with wanting to put on a big show, we have a lot of requirements with regards to finding a safe performance space. It's a process of finding a space that suits our requirements, which we did through the Adelaide Fringe's list of venues and then, of course, the venue has to want us to perform there as well. Star Theatres was the first venue on our list that with the first visit, it instantly worked out. It really is the perfect venue for our show. It's a vintage theatre set-up with comfortable tiered seating, air conditioning (a massive bonus!) and a huge stage that works perfectly with the setup of our show. It's not far from the CBD, it is easily accessible, and it's an Adelaide icon. We've since performed there in the Back 2 Back Festival and it worked really well. The Star Theatre crew is really helpful and incredibly experienced as well. Chantelle: With regards to aerial acts, Star Theatres has industry-standard rigging capacity, so it's entirely safe, which was a high priority for us. While the venue itself doesn't specialise in aerial performances, it's highly flexible and we've been able to bring the aerialists closer to the audience in order to create an immersive experience.
Tema: Is there anything else that you'd like us to know about yourselves and DYSTOPIA? Chantelle and Scott: Yes, we'd like to acknowledge that DYSTOPIA is a big project and we couldn't put something like this together without a lot of help. We like to think of CircAxe as a performance family and strive to make it a positive experience for everyone involved. We're excited to share our super talented performance crew with you, featuring our Assistant Director (and performer) - Alex Charman, and performers - Zoe Charman, Tazi Jeffries, Tara Jade and Eddie Barns-Tripp, along with the incredible CircoBats Performance Troupe. We'd also like to acknowledge our formidable Sound Technician - Colin Borthwick and our support crew - Helena Bemmerl and James Zeitz who all donate countless hours to the cause. Finally, we'd like to thank CircoBats Community Circus for their support and encouragement to pursue this project. Our premiere show came to pass as CircoBats provided us the space to create and perform it and they've continued to do so since.
DYSTOPIA will be running two shows at Star Theatres on March 7 and 8, 2020, as part of the Adelaide Fringe. Book your tix here.