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Madhouse Circus - Interview

Home > Adelaide > Circus | Performing Arts
by Tema (subscribe)
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It seems to be a trend this year, with performing businesses like Madhouse Circus doing multiple incredible shows. Hoping to reach a wide audience across both their shows, one will appeal to children, while others will target the adult audiences greatly.

& I'll Cry If I Want To will be a tribute to the best birthday parties and celebrations that we could ever imagine in our wildest dreams - think of impeccable jaw-dropping circus acts with a touch of tantrum central at irregular intervals.

BOSS SQUAD, on the other hand, will be all about celebrating 5 unique females, as they figure out their journeys of pursuing a career in youth circus. It is new and exciting as it's a collaboration project with Point & Flex Circus, which has meant 2x the cast, crew, and tasks - in a challenging yet rewarding manner!

Presented by Madhouse Circus, founder Felicia Lannan comments, "It's a big roar of "We Can Do It Too!" when it comes to the acts thought of as manly or too strong for us".

I was fortunate enough to score an interview with Felicia, where we talked about the two shows that will be playing as part of Adelaide Fringe this year - have a read of our exchange below:

Tema: Can you please tell me a bit about yourself, Felicia?
Felicia: I was lucky enough to grow up in Albury/Wodonga, on the border of NSW/VIC, where it just so happens the leading youth circus in Australia is. My mum was designing costumes for their latest show when I was a little girl and as a single parent, she brought me along to her work day. They saw me playing on all the equipment and flipping around, asked me to audition, and I've been a performer ever since! I started Madhouse Circus, while studying at the National Institute of Circus in Melbourne, along with some other students in my year level and I've not stopped since graduating.

Tema: Can you please tell us a bit about how Madhouse Circus operates?
Felicia: Madhouse Circus has a small admin staff of me. We self-produce, with a lot of support from our friends and colleagues. Self-producing means that I'm on stage doing the flips and tricks I love, but outside of that hour the audience sees, I am behind my laptop, on the phone or out meeting and organizing the next thing.

Tema: What do you think will help your shows be unique and stand out at this year's Fringe festival?
Felicia: Female-led circus is not a new concept, but is definitely booming in this year's festival. We're so happy to be representing in that category and bringing our own fierceness to the stage. I think Australian circus is sometimes taken for granted here, when there are so many international names that are brought onto the scene. Hear me now, Aussie Circus is so highly skilled, so well choreographed and such a delight to watch. See as many Aussies as you can!

Tema: How did you get involved with the Adelaide Fringe (AF)?
Felicia: Way back when Madhouse first began in 2012, we premiered in the Melbourne Fringe Festival. After that, we got such good feedback and recommendations that we decided to tour here. So, totally naive and unprepared, we drove over from Melbourne and fell in love with this festival. We've been setting this month aside in our calendar ever since.

Tema: How long have you been a part of AF and how has the experience been so far?
Felicia: This will be our 5th year presenting in the Adelaide Fringe! Not to be too stereotypical here, but it's a whirlwind! It's done before you know it. Every day is go, go, go and at the end, you need a week-long nap!

Tema: What made you decide to run 2 shows during the Adelaide Fringe season and how is the process treating you and your crew so far?
Felicia: It's made most tricky by all of us living in separate states, which is not a new concept for us. However, it definitely presents with its set of challenges. It'll be all hands on deck, once the festival kicks in and we've scheduled our performance seasons so that they don't overlap - a very conscious decision on our part. I am splitting my brain in two, being the contact for two very different shows, but myself and the team staying on top of it!

Tema: How did you score your venue Tandanya Theatre? What about the venue appealed most to you?
Felicia: What a hidden gem! A beautiful theatre right in the centre of all the action! Tandanya provides a sturdy, indoor theatre, with a huge stage and comfortable seating bank. Tandanya was most appealing to us, because of one particular circus apparatus we use in both shows. 'German Wheel' needs a large and level floor surface for the best acts to be performed and we are so pleased to be able to bring you this act un-compromised.

Talking about the show & I'll Cry If I Want To

Tema: What inspired you to come up with the concept of your show?
Felicia: I am one of those adults who didn't stop celebrating their birthday like a little kid would. Everyone knows when my birthday is coming up (in fact it's during Fringe season!) and I wanted to share some of that joy and anticipation I feel by throwing a party on stage every night.

Tema: Who are the key individuals in the show that you'd like to highlight?
Felicia: We have a small cast of 3, so I can shout out to them both:
Amy Stuart: A QLD-based acrobat, who spends the most gruelling amount of time on planes to get here and present the work. She adds such a gorgeous element of clown to the show, and her energy levels keep all of us going.
Tommy Matthewman: Literally and figuratively lifting us up all the time. He's our base, which means he's the bottom of the pyramid, holding and throwing us in the air. Despite probably doing the hardest job physically, he's the most humble and supportive human to have on your team.

Photo by Brig Bee Photography

Tema: Who is your target audience for the show?
Felicia: We accidentally created a kids show that adults also enjoy! Children between 4-12 are the biggest lovers of our colourful antics, but it's such a relatable piece (everyone has a birthday!) that we've found that children and adults of all ages can enjoy.

Tema: What are you hoping for your audiences to experience by attending your shows?
Felicia: I want every audience member to leave feeling celebrated, and thinking on what they might do for their next birthday, to celebrate themselves some more!

Photo by Melbourne Ceili Camera

Tema: Have you taken your show elsewhere (interstate / overseas)? If so, where has it made an appearance? If not, where are you hoping to take your show/s one day?
Felicia: This show has had quite a journey to get to where it is now. It started as a 10-minute concept back in 2016, where we competed in 'Gaswork's Circus Showdown'. From there, we took a work in progress to the 'WA Circus Festival' and last year, we premiered the full work in Perth and Adelaide Fringe Festivals. An absolute highlight though was the 'National Folk Festival' in April of last year. Our act received a standing ovation, mid-cabaret and truly warmed our tired hearts.

Talking about the show BOSS SQUAD

Tema: What inspired you to come up with the concept of your show?
Felicia: Circus, like any industry, has some inequalities when it comes to gender. Way back in 2015, we were training a specialty called 'Teeterboard', worldwide it is predominantly performed by men and optimally needs two people of equal or similar weight. The 5 of us girls found we had a great thing going (training together) and after a long time of planning and organizing our schedules, we set aside some time to pursue this idea of an all-female Teeterboard troupe.

Tema: Who are the key individuals in the show that you'd like to highlight?
Felicia: With a bigger cast, I won't tell you about each of the acrobats, we tell our stories in the show anyway. I'd like to highlight the behind the scenes cast, the ones who don't come on stage and receive a clap from the audience:
Phil and Shane Witt: These two have taught some of us, since we were children. They were the first people to believe in this show and donated their time and love to the finished product. Sometimes, they have no idea what us bunch of girls are going on about, but they continue to push us to be stronger and more daring than we already are.
Spenser Inwood: Star of 'Casting Off' by A Good Catch, Spenser directed this work from paper to stage. She's a phenomenal woman in her own right and it's a privilege to have her mould this work each time we do it.

Tema: Who is your target audience for the show?
Felicia: This show is a love letter to our younger selves. Women aged 15 to 25 should see this show to learn or be inspired. Women 25 and older will also enjoy the new perspectives and high-level skills to emphasize the women's issues they know all too well.

Image sourced from the Adelaide Fringe website, photo by Ian Sutherland Photography

Tema: What are you hoping for your audiences to experience by attending your shows?
Felicia: Everyone should walk out of that theatre knowing women are not the 'weaker' sex, but just as strong, valid and worthy as everyone else on this planet.

Tema: Have you taken your show elsewhere (interstate / overseas)? If so, where has it made an appearance? If not, where are you hoping to take your show/s one day?
Felicia: We premiered in the 'Sidesault' Festival in Melbourne late last year and had the true pleasure of returning to my hometown for their 'Borderville' Festival in December. This really is the start of BOSS SQUAD's touring life and we hope to see it tour regionally across Australia and even potentially overseas.

Book tix to Madhouse Circus's shows here:

& I'll Cry If I Want To || Tandanya Theatre || Feb 27 - Mar 3
BOSS SQUAD || Tandanya Theatre || Mar 6 - 17
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Why? Watching circus acts with a primarily female-led cast is what we need!
When: Adelaide Fringe season
Where: Tandanya Theatre
Cost: $$
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