Serious clowning around

Actor and performer Chris Dingli will be setting up Malta's very first permanent circus in the near future.

Last week, the local paper mill – or, more accurately, links on Facebook – churned out a particularly interesting nugget of information: Malta is in talks to host its own permanent circus which, free of any animals and run in collaboration between local talent and UK experts, has ambitions to take not just the island, but the whole of Europe by storm.


The man behind it all is local actor made good Chris Dingli who, having had a string of successful performances on the island over the past couple of years, has returned from England – where he has studied, busked and acted to critical acclaim since 2004  – with this new initiative.


“If circus is popular all over the world from China to Portugal to Brazil to Australia, why shouldn’t it be on our island?” he asks, plainly summing up the drive to set up the circus, a project which is as yet under wraps but proceeding slowly but surely with the aid of UK-based circus expert Verena Cornwall.


While the venue, and the artists that will eventually populate it remain under wraps (those interested are urged to contact Dingli on [email protected]), Dingli is adamant about creating a circus which will mine a rich contemporary vein.  


“Contemporary circus is a mixture of traditional circus acts and theatrical techniques brought together around a theme or story line.  In contemporary circus, a larger emphasis is placed on the storytelling aspect of the show and the characters within it.  This is generally done using traditional theatrical techniques such as music, lighting and costumes used together to create an aesthetic through-line.  Also it is less usual to include animal acts in a contemporary circus. As a result, contemporary circus shows can be staged in any location that lends itself to the needs and requirements of the show.


“There are many exciting contemporary circuses – too many to mention.  Some, such as Cirque du Soleil, have become household names.  Our job is to study these circuses, make contact if possible, see what they are doing and use their work as inspiration for ours.”
Beyond these artistic aspirations however, Dingli’s aim would be to create something that would have a broad appeal. In fact, he claims that the lack of a circus is a large gap in an easily exploitable market.


“Circus is has a strong presence in many parts of the globe and is actually part of many national cultures. In a year in the UK, more people will go see a circus than will watch a live football match!  Yet, this exciting art form is virtually untouched in Malta.”


And Dingli hopes that, once the circus is actually snug in its Maltese home, it will grow into something that will make the rest of Europe sit up and take notice.


“We have some very exciting plans for the circus. Yes, we would like it to be a professional, world-class show of the sort that you would be able to see in any modern European city, but we also want to give it our own Maltese flavour.  I cannot give away too much at this point, but I can promise you that our plans for the show include a very special Mediterranean twist to the idea of contemporary circus.”


A venue is yet to be found, and Dingli points out that there are many things to consider while searching for the ideal place to stage such an endeavour.


“The ideal venue would need to have the obvious things like access to electricity, water, access roads, parking spaces and all the other logistical things that one must consider when choosing a site.  


“There are also health and safety issues, particularly if the venue is outdoors.  Somewhere too windy would make it too dangerous for us to include aerial acts, for example.  Each venue we’ve looked at has presented its own unique set of opportunities and challenges. My job now is to take each of these into consideration, compare and contrast the venues on offer (that we’ve been able to see so far) and slowly whittle down the choices until we end up with a single venue that offers the best possibilities.”


Dingli hopes that the Maltese people will be able to effortlessly embrace the circus as soon as it comes along, owing to our very particular brand of humour. “I’m hoping that they will enjoy it and be proud of it. The Maltese people have wonderful sense of humour and an outlook on life that is, to me at least, very distinct. That’s what I want to include in the circus. I want it to be a product of the country it was created in. I hope the public will respond to that.”


The project will be piloted in 2011, with a full-scale show following a year later. Details – along with Dingli and co’s unique twist on the circus genre – will be announced in early 2011.

To keep updated, join the Malta Circus Project Facebook group, or email Dingli on:  [email protected]

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