Cirque de l'Extraordinaire

Image credit: Alex Cartlidge

Recently it’s been impossible to be anywhere in the vicinity of the ADC theatre and not hear hushed rumours of what Sam Grabiner, Jordan Mitchell, Guy Emanuel and Theo Wethered - the gang behind Cirque De L’Extraordinaire - are planning for their show. "Apparently they’re getting a bear", I heard in Sainsbury’s. "How do you rig a trapeze?" someone wonders in the club room. "I’m working on my Scottish accent for Cirque". It’s impossible not to be intrigued by this show.

"We wanted to do a show on a bigger scale, and so we’re aiming for it to have the spectacle element as well", says Jordan. This much is clear – but as they explain their decision behind setting a sketch show in a circus, it becomes clear it’s about more than simply seeing how close they can come to tearing down the ADC. Sam tells me the story of his current desktop background picture, a man named Frank ‘Cannonball’ Richards: "He’s just inherently hilarious", he says, and starts to read from his Wikipedia page, before Jordan interrupts, "he just got shot with a cannonball".

The setting isn’t the only ambitious element of the show, however. Finding the personnel for a fully functional circus has been a big project, and has involved recruiting all kinds of talented folk from all around Cambridge.  "The circus allowed us the opportunity to work with a lot of new people and learn a lot more about doing a show, so that’s been really really fun", explains Jordan. Learning a full compliment of acrobatic, balancing, and juggling tricks and stunts would certainly have been a big ask: where on the publicity it says the team have been hard at work training and dreaming, Theo admits, "we outsourced some of the training", "We outsourced some of the dreaming as well", confesses Jordan. 

They’re keen to prove that genuine skill hasn’t cost the show any comedy, though. "We’ve talked a lot about the idea that if someone is just doing something impressive, and it’s also funny, that’s so cool", says Sam. "You come to a show expecting a certain thing, and whether that thing is like a sketch, or some comedy, and I think there’s a kind of joke in that, when you say in a sketch you’re going to do something, like, the trapeze artist is going to come on, the audience kind of expect that not to happen, and for it to be really funny when that kind of thing actually does happen."

Above all, it strikes me that this is a show that needs its audience to invest in it. Of the narrative thread, Theo describes it as "not so much reappearing characters – it’s more like, all of the characters in the show exist throughout the entire show." As with any sketch show – where the stars are also the writers – the question of real life spilling onto the stage is an area of interest. "Our offstage friendship translates into our dynamic – it’s not just about playing a heightened version of me, necessarily", says Jordan, "but more a heightened version of how I relate to these three."

For Sam, watching friendship happen on stage is one of the joys of sketch comedy: "there needs to be something beyond just things separated by blackouts". Whatever makes it onto the ADC stage next week, there can be no doubt of how much more than that Cirque De L’Extraordinaire will be.


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