Geoff Dunstan is a founding member of Discolate – who perform 3 Speed Crunchbox at the Melba Speigeltent this November – owner of Ruccis Circus School and has a long term circus/permaculture garden project.
HOW DID YOU GET INTO CIRCUS/PHYSICAL THEATRE?
While I was at university working hard at not finishing my degree in arts / Engineering, I ran two clubs; the Gymnastics Club and the Shakespeare Society. Combining the resources of these two clubs I created extremely physical, contemporary Shakespearian productions. It was as a result of producing these shows that I ended up getting a job with Circus Oz and that kick started my journey into the world of circus and physical theatre.
WHAT ELSE DO YOU DO?
I am also the owner of Ruccis circus school which I started with a couple of fabulous mates ten years ago. I’m a dad of two fabulous kids. Occasionally I also do some rigging but there’s not a lot of time left for that.
I love the circus and I love environmentalism. I keep trying to combine my two passions, it’s not always easy but I keep plugging away at it. In my backyard I am creating a combination circus / permaculture garden!
WHAT DOES CIRCUS/PHYSICAL THEATRE MEAN TO YOU?
I started in physical theatre because I thought it was a really exciting and innovative way of telling contemporary stories and expressing important social and environmental ideas. At the same time it was heaps of fun.
I fell in love with the circus because of it’s history of looking at and living in the world differently. I was inspired by the transient lifestyles of the traditional circuses. I loved living in caravans in my early days with Circus Oz and hanging out with the Circus Monoxide mob touring around on their double decker bus, I loved meeting up with Acrobat and discovering different approaches to food and health and principled living, I loved talking to Derek Ives about why he thought it was important to juggle with slabs of meat dressed as a butcher because he felt societally we had become desensitized from the source of the products we consume, I loved circus tents and the idea that you could build your own venue wherever you could find a spare paddock. I loved the way circus people often viewed the world from a completely different perspective.
I believe that the ability to see things through a different lens is badly needed in the world and that circus can be an amazing living example of tolerance, difference and solving problems through lateral and original thinking.
Circus for me was a window into a world of original thought, of different ways to exist, a world where difference was so normal that if you weren’t careful you might become intolerant of normal.
WHAT’S THE HIGHLIGHT OF YOUR CIRCUS/PHYSICAL THEATRE CAREER SO FAR?
So many highlights it is hard to choose. Doing a throw out on the cloudswing for the first time, completing a 360 swing on my first ever home built swing, seeing my kids swing on our backyard rig, watching Ruccis students put on their first ever show without any help from me, singing in an opera (it was a comedy moment but I don’t have to mention that) playing guitar on stage with Circus Oz in New York, ( another comedy moment), producing my first international tour of RIsk Reduction. Asking famous writer/director Michael Gow to direct one of Dislocate’s first shows and him saying yes, getting to work with some of the amazing alumni of Rock’n’Roll Circus; Rudi Mineur, Matt Wilson, Derek Ives, Kareena Oates, finding out that I am a clown, making my wife cry performing a stunning death scene with my circus partner of 18 years Kate Fryer, in our recent production If These Walls Could Talk. The breakfast buffet on Dislocate’s recent tour to India. I better stop there!
IF YOU WEREN’T DOING CIRCUS/PHYSICAL THEATRE, WHAT WOULD YOU BE DOING RIGHT NOW?
If I wasn’t doing physical theatre I would be working in some way to help the environment and in fact a key focus for me at the moment is to explore ways in which I can steer my performance career in this direction. I am filled with a mixture of horror at what we are doing to this world and enthusiasm at the innovative solutions certain scientists, engineers, architects and multiple others are finding to try to address this. I think the arts and performers in general have a very important role to play in communicating and promoting positive change, as well as helping to make people think differently. I would love to play a bigger part in this movement through my craft.
WHAT SKILLS DO YOU LIKE PERFORMING AND WHY?
The skills I love the most are ones that don’t look like skills. I love the ladder act that I created with DJ Garner (and others) for which we use a normal old ladder we found lying around. I love the scenes that Dislocate created using a couch that was hanging around the training space we trained in and which smelled heavily of share-house living. I love the office scene that Kate Fryer and I created on top of a photocopying machine, lit by the light of the photocopier.
I love it when magic appears from out of the ordinary!
WHERE WOULD YOU LIKE TO BE IN 5 YEARS TIME?
In five years time I would like to be sitting on my backyard watching my kids pick fruit and vegies from our permaculture garden, waiting for my all electric, driverless tesla car to come and pick me up and take me to the premiere of the new Ruccis show. As I wait I hope to be dreaming up new ways to have even more fun, living a sustainable lifestyle, and I hope my body lets me keep being an acrobatic clown at least until then .
WHY DO WE NEED CIRCUS/PHYSICAL THEATRE IN THE WORLD?
Sometimes I feel like we might all be riding on the Titanic and that everyone is yelling at the drivers to slow down. I believe that we need to cherish and nourish the people in the world who are able to see that we will not avert catastrophe by travelling slower, but rather we need to change direction! The world needs people who can think differently and effectively promote ways in which we can make that change of direction. I have found that the circus/physical theatre industry is full of such people and I believe we need as many great examples of this as possible.
Physical theatre can take an idea and present it in a way that makes people think differently. It can inspire audiences, not just with the extraordinary physical feats but with the message we can weave into that physicality. Circus has a long history of demonstrating a completely different alternative lifestyle and I think we can tap into this long history and reframe it as vehicle to advocate for a change of direction from the current path which humanity is travelling