New work in development at HOTA
Our black box theatre is currently home to Robbie Curtis and Lizzie McRae from ARC Circus as they develop their new work, In the Arms of Morpheus.
Robbie is an acrobat and dancer who has worked extensively for over ten years nationally and internationally, performing, teaching, and choreographing. He’s worked with many of those big circus names that everyone knows including Cirque du Soleil, Circa, Circus Oz and Legs on the Wall. Lizzie’s background is in music and drama, and in her other life she’s the Executive Director of a not for profit where she works to improve the lives of Iraqi street kids.
Returning to Australia from overseas when Covid reared its ugly head they and found themselves with some unexpected time on their hands.
‘I was reflecting on my career, and what was happening in the world and while I’ve had a great time working for some really great companies I’d always wanted to start making my own work. Covid gave me the time and space to really think about it,’ said Robbie.
‘Lizzie’s parents live here so we both came back to the Gold Coast. My next contract was going to be in Germany with Cirque du Soleil so we thought we’d both just hunker down for a bit. But then we realised this was such a great place and we ended up buying a house and making the Gold Coast our home.’
With a change of scene, and live performances all but cancelled for the foreseeable future, they suddenly found themselves with the time, and freedom, to start making their own work.
Lizzie told us: ‘We’d always talked about making our own work, it’s been a dream for a long time, but it’s a hard decision to take the time out to do your own thing. When everything shut down it was great to have the time to think about the work without any pressure or expectations.’
‘It was nerve wracking, but we just went for it full throttle and ended up making Bee Story. It was really wonderful going through the process of creating the work, and it was so well received that it gave us a lot of confidence,’ Robbie added.
Bee Story, a show for kids with a strong story and environmental message, was a real hit at HOTA during Kids Take Over last year and it went on to sell-out at Sydney Festival.
‘It was great bringing our different skills together to create Bee Story. There’s not much circus in kids theatre that has a really strong narrative and that also talks about an important issues. We wanted to do something with a serious message that also showcased the breadth of work we can do.’ Lizzie continued.
Robbie and Lizzie are now developing a new work called In the Arms of Morpheus. Not just a character in the Matrix, Morpheus is the Greek god of dreams and the saying, In the Arms of Morpheus, is about being cradled in a deep asleep.
‘It’s really exciting for me to work on something that’s really up my alley, being experimental and using all the skills I’ve built up over the years in dance, acrobatics and circus. Traditionally circus was mostly about skill and spectacle, but I’m interested in creating a strong narrative and exploring what acrobatics and circus can bring to the storytelling,’ Robbie said.
Looking at some big themes including isolation, Trumpism, power, corruption and truth, the ideas behind In the Arms of Morpheus have been heavily influenced by recent world events, including American and Australian politics, Covid, authoritarian regimes and coup attempts.
Robbie continued: “I’m trying to process all of these big ideas through comedy and magic and circus, it’s a lot! One of the big catalysts of this work was hearing Dr Fauci the other day saying ‘‘facts matter’’ and I feel like we’ve sort of forgotten that over the last few years. I’ve been reflecting a lot on that and looking at Charlie Chaplin’s The Great Dictator and how he was able to look at Nazi Germany and Hitler though quite a comical lens, was really interesting to me.’
‘Circus is really joyful, I don’t want to be going down a dark hole with these themes so I am hoping that the work is very joyful and sheds lights on what truth could be.’
Lizzie continued: ‘We’ve both been trying to process what’s been happening in the world over the last year in terms of isolation, in the midst of so much noise about the political situation globally, the pandemic, climate change…and just sitting here being bombarded by the news and trying to understand what’s going on. It’s exciting to have the opportunity to try and process all of that in this work.’
Robbie and Lizzie are both keen to see how the work develops and acknowledge how important creative developments are now that they have set up their own company ARC Circus.
‘It’s such an amazing opportunity. Working with big companies you get used to going to a studio and having the time and space to make things. But as a freelancer making your own work you need support and things like grants to get a show off the ground.’
Lizzie added: ‘Everyone here has been so welcoming and generous. It feels good to know that the City, HOTA and other places are supporting the development of new work. It’s great to have the trust of someone saying “We can’t see yet what it’s going to be, but we’re confident in your ability to create something great’”
With hopes to tour In the Arms of Morpheus once it’s ready they’ve put a great deal of thought into the type of works they want to make.
Robbie continued: “The whole point is to create work with a long-life span. Working with a company like Circa was very inspiring, one of the first works I did with them, 46 Circus Acts, had a 15-year life span which was incredible. So you always have that hope for your work.’
‘We travel carbon neutral and want to be a really ethical company. We want our works to be accessible - high art but not highbrow - and able to be performed anywhere. We intentionally made Bee Story, and now Morpheus, able to fit in one van with the two of us.’
Lizzie agreed and added: ‘It’s really important to us that our work is can be performed anywhere. In my other life, working with Iraqi street kids, I just think it would be so cool to create a show you could pack into a suitcase and show it to kids who have never, ever seen any kind of live theatre.’
Supporting the development of new works is an important part of what we do and it’s
clear Lizzie and Robbie have a bright future creating strong, narrative driven works. We’re looking forward to seeing In the Arms of Morpheus once it’s complete and welcoming Bee Story back to HOTA later this year.
In the meantime you can read more about Robbie and Lizzie’s company ARC Circus here.
This creative development is proudly supported by:
The Regional Arts Development Fund is a partnership between the Queensland Government and City of Gold Coast to support local arts and culture in regional Queensland. The development of In the Arms of Morpheus is proudly supported by HOTA Home of the Arts.