GRINDonline’s Michael Hall managed to wangle an interviewed Brett Haylock, the creative producer of La Soirée – the wild fusion of cabaret, new burlesque, circus sideshow and contemporary vaudeville that’s taking the world by storm!
Who are you and what do you do?
I am Brett Haylock and I am the creative producer of La Soiree. La Soirée is a circus cabaret show that is coming to Darwin as part of the Darwin Festival. This is a show that was created 8 and a half years and has toured around the world a number of times since then. It’s a sexy, cirrus cabaret - just a bit of old fashioned entertainment.
How did you come to ‘run away with the circus
I was working for the Adelaide Fringe, and had been working for a number of international festivals, and and that’s when the famous Spiegeltent had its first engagement with Australia, back in 2000. I kind of saw this incredible, beautiful venue and was completely seduced by it and then ended up running away with it. As a result of programming and managing the Spiegeltent at a number of different international festivals, I was exposed to all these incredible artists, or a number of incredible artists who had extraordinary, breath taking 7 minute acts but no natural home. Thus a show called La Clique, which was the pre curser to La Soirée, was born. It was created for the Edinborough fringe festival in 2004 and was a king of late night alternative cabaret. Who could have ever imagined that we would still be touring with a variation of the same show, with a number of the original performers and coming to perform in Darwin 8 years later! We’ve had 9 months in Paris, New York City, a number of times in London, Stockholm, Dublin, and we’ve been on this incredible roller coaster ride and an amazing adventure! And you know Darwin is apart of that adventure! We’ll be playing under the starts for the very first time, under the palm trees.
Do you get tired of playing the same show over and over after 8 years?
Honestly, if we got bored we wouldn’t still be doing it now. We now have a big pool of artists, maybe about 25 who have kind of tried and tested and live firmly within the La Soirée family. So we chop and change the running order, we create new acts for the show, there is plenty to keep your interest up. And of course the nature of the show is that it relies heavily on the audience and so every show is different and you never really know what is going to happen next.
How do yourecruit new acts and artists?
We’ve never held auditions but in our touring we invite local artists to come and guest with us. Our format works to have local guest acts, and in that process we’ve kind of unearthed a number of… gems if you like, and then we’ve invited them. We might cross paths with them again, you can imagine on a touring circuit you do see a lot of the same people over and over again and so they might guest with us over a course of about 2 years in different cities, different festivals and then maybe the opportunity arises to join the cast. Casting backstage is as important as on stage because there are absolutely no secrets when you tour with the same people for 8 years!
What’s it like performing in something as unique as the Spiegeltent?
Very beautiful, and of course they are circular by nature so that works perfectly for us because we always play completely in the round. Our show is played on a very small stage, its only 2.5 m across. The front row is almost on the stage so you see everything, there is nowhere for the performer to hide. Spiegeltents are beautiful and bring a touch of old, charming European ambiance. And there will be a Spiegeltent for the first time in Darwin, but we won’t be playing in the Spiegeltent. I think Darwin audiences will fall in love with the Speigeltent though, but for us it’s a world first and very exciting for us to be able to play under the stars – we will be performing the in lighthouse. We’ve been doing a lot of long European winters, you know when its snowing outside. So the allure of Darwin and the thought of being able to spend the day on the beach and fight off crocodiles and then perform at night has completely charmed the entire company of La Soirée. Its gunna be great! Its gunna be fantastic we can’t wait! Next week we open in Montréal, Canada, then we go to Chicago, then we come to Darwin directly from Chicago.
How is life constantly on the road?
Its normal now, most of us have been touring for 10 years and we’ve all got a home somewhere. We all take the rare opportunities to go home but generally we’re touring for 10 months of the year. Its still exciting, I mean we’ve just played in Hamburg, and that was out first time in Germany, and so that was another amazing adventure. I don’t think you could do it forever and most people have their partners on tour with them. So you have to keep it real and of course one family replaces another. I think when you come to see La Soirée you will see than what an audience feels, is this real sense of family and ensemble. One that’s not manufactured, one that’s as real today as it was 8 years ago. Like I said there are absolutely no secrets when you spend that much time living together, working together AND playing together. It’s a fantastic lifestyle, its not quite as glamorous as it may appear from the outside, but its incredibly rewarding.
Do you have a most memorable performance or are they all special in their own way?
They are, I mean we’ve done some crazy ones over the years, a couple of weird one off events. In Adelaide we performed for 500 gynaecologists so it made some aspects of the show quite interesting – it was like a biology lesson.
What/ who inspires you?
I saw a number of shows when I first started having exposure to international festivals and I can see that they have all influenced this show. Those shows are the type of show where you are completely immersed in it, where there is no 4th wall, where it kind of happens all around you and you don’t really know what’s going to happen next. They were the shows that really inspired me and they heavily influenced the kind of structure and the look and feel of La Soirée. It’ll all make sense when you come and see the show, you’ll understand that it kind of explodes into the venue and happens all around you and you don’t really know which direction to look! Its also incredibly fast moving.
Did you ever imagine you ‘d be doing this when you were younger?
NO! Never never in a thousand years. Me and my brother and sisters were only ever allowed to stay up late if the circus was on TV. I think they used to play it at midnight. So I blame them! I’ve always been drawn to the kind of circus variety world. I loved the fact that it was so simple. I was also drawn to the transient nature of it, you know move to a town, put up a tent and then (hums some circus music) and the move on.. its an incredibly romantic idea.
Persistence because its hard work. Lots of the artists in La Soirée have dedicated their life to a 9 minute act. They continue to train for that act daily and never become complacent with it. And go and see things, as much as you can. There are so many amazing things out there, I say, just be a sponge and soak it all up.
And finally, what would you say to your 17 year old self
Ohh… good question… I would say…. I don’t know, good question – you’ve stumped me! Maybe learn another 5 languages. Now I regret that. Yeah that would be my advice to myself, back when it was easier!
Interview by Michael Hall