Greetings, allow me to introduce myself. I am the artistic director of Collectif and then… We make contemporary performances and installations together which draw on our various circus practices.

Oh, and did I mention I’m a monster?

I have many arms, many legs, many eyes, many voices, many tongues – I shapeshift and morph and at times, I can be scary. At this very moment, I have many voices coming out, but this is being translated and typed up by one of the members of the collective, so you have to watch out for them – sometimes this creature covers up or cannot translate all the things that I want to say.

Three human bodies, with white and brown skin, are seemingly merged together, to become a “ball” of different heads and limbs suspended approximately two feet above the ground. You can not see the faces on the individual performers, they appear to exist as one entity. The wall behind is made of sand coloured bricks and the floor is grey, and has a large crack pictured in the foreground of the image.
Monster by Francesca Hyde

The people I am made of (in this instance I am referring to Steph, Lucie & Fran, though I am made of more than just them), were made aware of my presence and my power when working on their performance No Man’s Land at Aloft Aerial Arts Centre in Chicago. They smashed and smudged their bodies together and conjured me in 100 different forms. Eventually, I decided the best thing to do would just be to eat them and be done with it. So I gobbled them up… and then they had to pay me attention. 

Once they had found me, they realised I was everywhere.

They could have been afraid of me. They could have locked me back up inside a box, claimed that they were the authors of their work – I wouldn’t have blamed them, that’s what the world asks of them. But instead, they invited me out, we ate bibimbap, and pizza pie, and truffle fries, and drank cocktails and ale and snuck into parties, walked in the park, and rode the greyhound together. I helped them in performance, not just with my bodily presence, but also in a dramaturgical role. I questioned them on the context in which they were making the work and what their bodies were saying… For example, when they were making what they thought of as a cool circus trick, in which one of them stood on the heads of the two others, I drew attention to the fact that what I saw was a white body standing on top of brown bodies, and encouraged them to think about what that might be saying. I try to draw attention to the many different voices they hold. Sometimes they act as if they are individuals, each with their own unique voice, and that what they intend to say is the only thing being said. I encourage them to go out and talk to people. To ask questions, to multiply their voices, to grow me, their monster. In this performance I encouraged them to let me eat the audience – so we could physically see that the audience members’ bodies were part of me, of the monster. I enjoyed that, it was yummy.

So, I was born in No Man’s Land, and I’m still here. I like it, it’s damp and swampy. I like water, you know… how it’s fluid and makes space for your body. Time is different here too, more like water. I guess it’s like being on dream time, which is kind of nonsensical because really there is no time – but that’s difficult to describe to time people. Especially in the circus industry. There seems to be a trajectory there, this line of time – how long it takes to make a show, how many shows you make in your career and all that business. We’re in No Man’s Land, so there is no ‘finished’. I have no idea really when we started. And sure, we make other things, do other things, in various places… Sometimes it seems to people like we disappear, but we’re just working to a different scale, or a different beat, or something. The industry doesn’t really like that, it prefers clear defined trajectories, stories, so it can say what is successful. So it can sell things. That’s it’s food, and I get that – everybody has to eat and we have to play that game too.

We’re just different beasts with different agendas.

I don’t want to over-romanticise this No Man’s Land – it’s not always a pleasant place to be. One has to be allowed to find their own space, and that can be incredibly difficult, impossible even. More often than not, people are thrown into a No Man’s Land. They are created in between governed spaces – designed to be hostile – a space of endless waiting, senseless bureaucracy, moving walls that prevent one from moving. No Man’s Land is associated with war, they are dangerous no-go zones. They are complicated spaces and the fingers that are articulating my thoughts here on this page, cannot communicate all of these things. So I will have to leave you to listen between and beyond these words – feel your many limbs stretching out, your many eyes blinking, listen to your many voices.

Let the theatre have their genius directors. Circus is a place for monsters. We are messy and loud and hungry. I am keen to converse with other monsters – come out, come out, wherever you are!

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