Interview with Joanna Vymeris

The Feathers of Daedalus Circus have teamed up with renowned poet Roger McGough to present Sky in the Pie, a circus and puppetry spectacular running at OSO Arts Centre in February and the VAULT Festival in March. I caught up with the show’s director, Joanna Vymeris, to find out more about this new production. 

How did you first get into directing?
I always thought I would run away to the circus but as a performer, having done circus from a young age.  Then, whilst studying at Cambridge University, I got very involved in their theatre scene. I was frustrated by how much of a clique the drama world was and how inaccessible it appeared to many people. I wanted to make a show that brought in some of the other incredibly talented performers Cambridge had to offer. I was in the university gymnastics team and involved in Cambridge Community Circus so I created an adaptation of ‘Alice in Wonderland’ that brought together people from these spheres with the more traditional drama world. The show sold out before we even opened and received rave reviews that allowed it to continue to the Edinburgh Fringe. When I graduated all I wanted to do was to keep making shows that brought together people from various art forms with the world I knew best: circus. I set up the Feathers of Daedalus and have been directing ever since.

Can you tell me a little bit about Sky in the Pie?
Sky in the Pie is a celebration of Roger McGough’s lifetime of wonderful writing. His poetry is engaging, exciting and enchanting for audiences of all ages and we want to bring it to the stage in as diverse a way as possible. We are blending circus, puppetry and music to tell the stories of the poems and allow them to burst from the page onto the stage. Our story follows the simple tale of a child on their first day of school, yet the show is made surreal and bizarre through the nature of the poems and their multi-disciplinary portrayal.

What inspired you to get involved with the project?
It’s all thanks to the OSO Arts Centre really. Their programmer, who was a friend at university and produced my show Alice, asked me if I’d want to create a children’s show for them and we discussed working with one of the local writers in Barnes. Roger McGough is involved with the OSO and straight away this jumped out to me as an exciting option. I reached out to Roger immediately. His poems are so incredibly rhythmical and have such a musical quality that I couldn’t help but visualise choreography and theatre when reading them. Roger replied straight away and we have been planning ever since.

Sky in the Pie combines circus and poetry – how do you approach directing a production like this?
This is something I’ve done a few times with the Nasty Poet (Sophie Leseberg Smith). We made Coppelia (an adaptation of the original ballet) and Mythologue (based on four Greek myths), in both cases using the poetry to choreograph to and narrate the circus journey. It has always been a challenge deciding how much to narrate and guide the audience and to what extent it remains abstract and open for interpretation. This is what Roger and I are constantly discussing at this stage of creation for Sky in the Pie and I’m excited to see which path it ends up following.

What can audiences expect?
The unexpected.  There will be nothing predictable about this show. Our performers will burst into song, spend minutes upside down and pull puppets out of thin air. We want the show as a whole to be as unexpected and surprising as Roger’s individual poems. All of this will take place in a beautiful and bizarre Tim Walker-inspired dream world by our set designer Rufus Martin.

What would you like Sky in the Pie to achieve?
We want it to inspire people of all ages to fall in love with poetry and circus. We want to show the possibilities and power of multidisciplinary collaborations and to wow people with Roger’s perfect words, high level circus and an enchanting soundtrack. My own journey into circus was inspired by seeing a circus show and I hope that other children will see the magic and mayhem of our show, and be inspired to set off on their own path into the creative world.

Sky in the Pie will run at OSO Arts Centre from Monday 17 – Saturday 22 February, and VAULT Festival from Friday 6 – Sunday 8 March 2020.

Photo credit: Johannes Hjorth 

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