‘Poetry, cynicism & the right amount of innuendo’: HEAD – Jacksons Lane

In Cabaret, Circus, London theatre, Opinion, Reviews by Katharine KavanaghLeave a Comment

CircusFest, Jacksons Lane, London

Head is a mixture of poetry, cynicism and the right amount of innuendo and crude humour to keep you entertained. Created and performed by John-Paul Zaccarini, it is a truthful homage to the breaking knees, hips, and self-indulgent masochism of a ‘middle-aged circus artist’, all the while dispensing knowledge gleaned from Zaccarini’s PhD research and years as a professor of circus at DOCH. The cyclical power dynamic between audience and performer is intelligently inspected and left me questioning much of what I witnessed, in the best way possible.

Head is constructed as a series of poems scrutinising Zaccarini’s intersecting relationships to his audience, his art, and his past. Some are visual, some spoken; some humorous, many personal. Zaccarini’s delivery is quite charming and, even with the lewd references, he is a very loveable character on-stage. Instead of being lulled to sleep by this lecture the unique sections keep things fresh and interesting for the one hour running time.

The stage is set lightheartedly, with dummy versions of Zaccarini – with green skin, clothed in his professorial shirt and trousers, colourful balloons for heads – strewn around the edges. This is coupled with a kiddies’ aquatic-themed paddling pool (filled with yet more balloons) replacing the traditional crash mat centre stage, below a rope so horrendously frayed that it’s remarked to be almost as old as Zaccarini’s career.

Perhaps those with an interest in psychology can see a further connection between the visual metaphors and Lacanian psychoanalysis, upon which Zaccarini’s PhD research methodology was based. The music, composed and arranged by Peter Coyte, blends well with the spoken word aspects of the show and creates a sonically pleasing backdrop for Zaccarini’s less chatty moments.

The few technical difficulties that arose seem to go hand-in-hand with the themes of anxiety and failure that permeate the performance. Due to the nature of this pleasantly befuddling show I honestly can’t tell whether they were intentional or not. Oh, don’t be silly! But…Hang on… As an audience we are repeatedly toyed with and I certainly enjoyed it. Is he really breaking up with us, or just shifting the relationship onto new ground?

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Katharine Kavanagh
Katharine is a circus writer based in the Midlands, a handy travel hub for getting out and about to new and smaller-scale work. From a background as a performer, theatre-maker and circus volunteer, Katharine took part in the EU-funded 'Unpack the Arts' circus residency, set up The Circus Diaries website, and now dedicates herself to sharing the intricacies of circus art with the world.

She says: "Circus is an area of performing arts where few people have the vocabulary and understanding to write balanced critical appraisal. This tends to result in wishy-washy 'reviews' that all sound the same and say very little about the relative quality of the show.

"As the circus arts grow in popularity and engagement across the UK, it's important for critical voices to reflect this to increasingly discerning audiences. That's where I come in."
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Katharine Kavanagh on FacebookKatharine Kavanagh on InstagramKatharine Kavanagh on TwitterKatharine Kavanagh on Youtube
Katharine Kavanagh
Katharine is a circus writer based in the Midlands, a handy travel hub for getting out and about to new and smaller-scale work. From a background as a performer, theatre-maker and circus volunteer, Katharine took part in the EU-funded 'Unpack the Arts' circus residency, set up The Circus Diaries website, and now dedicates herself to sharing the intricacies of circus art with the world.

She says: "Circus is an area of performing arts where few people have the vocabulary and understanding to write balanced critical appraisal. This tends to result in wishy-washy 'reviews' that all sound the same and say very little about the relative quality of the show.

"As the circus arts grow in popularity and engagement across the UK, it's important for critical voices to reflect this to increasingly discerning audiences. That's where I come in."