In this guest blog post, Truan Jay Mathias shares his experience as one of our Dare to Devise funded artists.
One Man and His Ball. I balance a crystal ball on my head and then we do challenges together, like making and flipping pancakes, climbing the highest mountain in the Brecon Beacon range of South Wales. The ball's name is Barry and in our show, we're going to explore the limits of our partnership.
I attended three seminars at The Marlowe Theatre in Canterbury which helped me to develop my idea into a potential show. One of the most useful things out of the seminars was realising many other people were in the same boat as me, trying to make the scatty idea in their head into a tangible physical thing that people could watch and engage with. And to get paid for that process.
I had a particularly low period at the beginning of 2017 where I seriously considered quitting circus. I still wasn't earning a consistent income, struggling to pay rent and bills, even after being out of circus school for nearly two years. This low point was the impetus to start looking at funding for work that was fully artistically interesting to me, rather than creating work that I liked, but was aimed at specific corporate or street busking audiences. That work I liked but it didn’t make my heart sing or give me a burning motivation to do more of that work.
I had applied to one, two, three and then four different funding pots with no success - and this is where Dare to Devise came in. When I saw the Dare to Devise funding, I thought I wasn't the right person for it, but a couple of friends convinced me otherwise. I got shortlisted and in the interview I talked about feeling not a part of the funded community so needing a stepping stone into that world. I wanted to create shows and work that is unique to me, instead of being an interchangeable jobbing performer; apparently what they were looking to support. Yay.
Having funding, a mentor, some creation space and help for writing an Arts Council application began to change the way I felt and talked about my own show. Because of the support and accountability, it suddenly became a thing that was really going to happen. So I began to talk about it like that, and people began to respond more positively, reflecting my own feelings and new-found confidence about the show. As I talk about it more and work on it more this positive feeling and momentum continues to grow.
The first bit of Dare to Devise money I used was spent on going to a workshop in Berlin, Organic Juggling and Dance. The fact that Kaveh, from Nearly There Yet and my mentor, was totally up for me using some of the funding to travel to Berlin, stay there for five days and do a totally amazing workshop, blew my tiny mind. This was the type of training I'd always wanted to do after finishing circus school and now, thanks to this support, it was possible. The workshops themselves were run by Stefan Sing and Christiano Cassado. We worked on contemporary dance, creative juggling and then did creative exercises utilising these skills. The workshop was a game changer and really evolved the way I train and my technical creative practice, which in turn has helped develop my show and confidence in performing movement with juggling.
The next step for me, following advice from Kaveh, was to arrange an Research and Development (R&D) fortnight to begin actual work on the show. I did this at the Organised Kaos Youth Circus Space in South Wales, where I worked for two years and not far from where I grew up. It was very nourishing to spend two weeks living where I grew up and creating in a space where I first started teaching circus.
The first week I spent solo, developing ideas I had been thinking on and discussing with people in the months leading up to the R&D. The second week I had Matt Mulligan, a fellow Circomedia alumni and also a Movement Director, to come in and help shape the process for three days. I then spent the last two days preparing for a sharing and Q&A of what I'd worked on for some of the members of the youth circus and their parents. Between showing work, and offering advice to young people in a deprived area with very limited access to the arts, it was one of the most gratifying events in my life so far.
Lastly, I've just had an R&D video filmed, which I'm totally psyched about as having funds to be able to afford a high quality videographer and hire the ideal space has been a dream of mine for years, and once again, thanks to Dare to Devise, this has become a reality. I hope to have the completed video in April, so you can all have a good ganders then!
Now, I'm probably describing the whole scenario as totally hunky dory, and it has been a lot of committed work to make all of these things happen, but being a circus artist has always felt that way, the difference now is I'm working towards my own dream goal, which gives me a whole lot more motivation and joy through the whole process.