Neil Coppen

writings/ plays/ poetry/musings/travel journals and newspaper columns

Looking Up

September22

As a kid the circus always proved to me that nothing was impossible. Bodies filling impossible spaces, doing impossible things, reaching impossible levels of perfection, Bodies that twisted, flew, buckled, bent . Bodies that went where bodies simply shouldn’t go.

Last night at the ‘Moscow Circus’ the performers risked their lives on tightropes twenty meters above the air. I sat below, tossing back pop corn, roused from a daily indifferent stupor, palms consistently sweaty and applauding, delight and exclamations genuinely charged. The whole display seemed slightly gladiatorial. There is a perverse privilege that comes with watching some emaciated Russian, risking their lives for a few hours of ones viewing pleasure. Admirable to think that they go out there each night and put them selves, quite literally ‘on the line’ in the name of entertainment. Safety nets are non existent at the circus these days. An attempt to pull audiences away from television sets I suppose. I urge you to try watch those mundane reality shows after visiting this circus. Devouring cockroaches rates factor 60 on the fear barometer. Send those dim witted contestants to the ‘Moscow Circus’ without a safety net, then lets monitor the adrenaline levels. Throughout my child hood this circus ‘fear factor’ was tainted with the knowledge that should the acrobats fall, they would land in a cushy net, or be caught by a safety line. Those were the days of ‘Boswell Wilkie’- amateurs, charlatans masquerading in sparkly spandex. Insipid acrobats, employing a miserable array of ‘zoo life’ to divert our mounting disinterest.

Last night, despite a disturbing pack of waltzing poodles, no other animals were harmed or humiliated in the making of the show. Instead the events relied on humanity (minus freaks and midgets) rather hinged our imaginations, our expectations on the fact that one misguided step would be a fatal one. It seems human error is no longer a consideration in the circus. It also made apparent, what fickle companions (or close relations) ‘delight’ and ‘horror’ are. Imagine ‘Oh’s’ turning to ‘Ow’s’ as bones break and teeth scatter as paramedics masquerading as clowns rush forth exclaiming ‘Its all part of the show folks’ whilst attempting to scrape poor Boris, The Invincible’ from the floor mat.

Thankfully there were no life threatening fuck ups, How could there be? The circus is that rare and magical place where at the end of the evening, despite the risk, the endless potential for disaster, everyone gets to go home and dream of flying like that mesmeric girl on the trapeze.

Only a clown dropped a skittle in his ‘finale’ juggling act but even this was an insignificant and forgettable blemish on the big tops utopian façade. I like to think it was a considered error on his behalf, if anyone holds pity for us- the audience- it’s surely that sad fool. No supple joints or fancy tricks, only his wits and even those seem to have escaped him. His role in the circus is to re assure us that it’s okay to cock up, that all we can do is learn from each dropped skittle (considering our life is not at stake each time this occurs, shouldn’t it be easier then we make it)The clown urges us to look up, learn from the masters, that if we don’t, then despite our aspirations, our pretensions to be them, angels soaring through the air, we will always be the fools, tragic mortals, chewing pop corn and craning their necks up from the cheap seats ,way way down below.

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