Listen again: 13th March 2012

We met Will Davis, aerialist and author and Tim McArthur, who performs a musical comedy character called Sister Mary McArthur – described as a cross between Mrs Brown, Mrs Merton and Dame Edna. Sister Mary is doing a late night chat Confession show at The Jermyn Street Theatre, with current leading West End stars including Helen Lederer.

Will Davis is the award-winning author of My Side of the Story, Dream Machine and forthcoming novel The Trapeze Artist. Will describes himself below..

If you had told me ten years ago I would one day be performing aerial circus acts I wouldn’t have believed it. Circus never even factored until I hit twenty five and decided it was finally time to master my ambition to do a back flip. At the Circus Space in London I succeeded in one for all of two weeks before losing the technique, only to be drawn to a couple of aerialists training in the corner of the room, who seemed to be spend an awful lot of time on the ground rubbing their joints and sighing… Why did they do it to themselves? I wondered. Hours of conditioning, perfecting complicated technique and agonising stretches – surely they were a bit mad?

It wasn’t long before I was addicted. You can spend months trying to master a difficult trick on the rope, silk or trapeze, and then, once you’ve achieved it, you stay satisfied for about five minutes before you need to master the next one. Maybe it’s masochistic and maybe it’s obsessional. But I have a different theory: circus is a world of spectacle, in which we witness human beings performing feats of the impossible. What makes it so attractive is that it seems to exist outside the confines of normal life. Like many teenagers, I was very introspective and alienated from my peers, and I think this followed me into adulthood. When I discovered the circus scene, it was also the discovery of a whole new way to be. Perhaps that’s the thing about modern circus – you don’t really run away with it, it runs away with you.

It was inevitable that circus would seep into my writing. The Trapeze Artist draws from that desire rebuild yourself as somebody new. It’s set on a travelling circus, and is about someone who wants to escape his life, and when that doesn’t work, he takes the circus back to his own world and tries to reconstruct it there.

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