Bristol Circus City Festival is back from October 12-29, and will include the spectacular performance As a Tiger in the Jungle, which tells the story of two children trafficked to an Indian circus. Bristol24/7 caught up with the show’s creative director, Ali Williams and performers Aman Tamang and Renu Ghalan.
What initially brought you to the state of Kathmandu?
Ali: I have travelled around India and Nepal a lot and love the culture. I saw that Circus Kathmandu were looking for a local creative director and I had all the right experience to go and do the job. I spent a year at the beginning of the programme working with the young artists to teach them about contemporary circus, and showed them how to make circus fun and enjoyable.
Circus Kathmandu has been described as ‘Nepal’s first and only contemporary circus’. How would you define a contemporary circus?
Ali: Traditional circus has animals, clowns and ringmasters and tends be a series of acts. Contemporary circus explores narrative, themes and works across art forms, incorporating theatre, dance, music and generally only has human performers.
What’s involved in your role as a creative producer?
Ali: A creative producer comes up with ideas for a project, and then works with a team of people to make it happen. They raise the money, sell the show, decide on the creative partners, including the directors, writers, designers and cast, and basically do what’s required to make it happen.
Tell us about As A Tiger In The Jungle.
Ali: The show tells the stories of Aman and Renu, who were sold by their parents and trafficked into an Indian circus. It’s based not only on their experiences but on the experiences of hundreds of children who were rescued over a ten-year period. It’s a theatre piece that is authentic, moving and poignant. We use a tiger both as the metaphor for the human traffickers and to create a fairy tale. It’s a beautiful show with plenty of good circus. So far the audiences have been left speechless by the power of the story we’re telling.
Aman and Renu – this show tells the real -life story of your upbringing. How much of your childhood was spent in the Indian circus before the rescue?
Aman: I went to the circus with my brother when I was five years old. At first it was fun and I liked the clowns. But it got hard. They beat us to learn tricks and we worked all the time and never got any money. The food was bad. I was hungry all the time.
Renu: I was in the circus in India for nine years, from age five to age 14. I don’t like talking about what happened to me there.
How did your life change after being introduced to Circus Kathmandu?
Aman: When Ali came to Circus Kathmandu we learned that we could have opportunities if we trained a lot. I like doing circus, so I worked hard. And for the first time we had money. Many people came to help train us and teach us to how be good performers. Now it’s paid off and we are professional artists at last. I waited my whole life for this.
Renu: Because of Circus Kathmandu and the training we had – especially when Ali was there – we became good artists. We’ve learned a lot of new skills, and now I’m happy to be working in the UK and telling my story to people so they can understand what it was like.
Do you have much creative input in your own performances?
Aman: The show is made about us and our skills so yes, I think so. We had to tell Ali what happened to us when we were kids and they used those stories to make the show.
Renu: In rehearsals we like to know what to do but we also make new things ourselves. The show is about us and our friends who were lost.
You’ve been on tour in the UK, including at Glastonbury Festival. Which place has been your favourite so far?
Aman: Glastonbury was great fun. We came in 2014 and made shows in the Big Top circus and people liked what we made. It was a show called Swagatam, and a lot of people cried. I loved to see Glastonbury – there is nothing like this in Nepal. This year so far I like Liverpool best. Big old buildings and lots of culture and the people speak so fast and funny I cannot understand them. We went dancing there!
Renu: Birmingham is my favourite so far. People were nice and we stayed with Ali’s friends. I liked it because there were lots of Indian people and they came to see us perform.
What’s next for you?
Aman: We are going home on October 27, and then we will train and get better tricks. We hope we will come back and tour this show in Norway next year and later again in UK. And I am getting married when I go home. I will have a lot of money from this work so now I can afford to marry.
Renu: I will have a holiday to go see my family and fix up my mum’s house because it got broken in the floods. Then I will train again ready to come back to work.