Back in February, I went for a couple of auditions in London for CBEEBIES Live tour. The advert was for 2 unicyclists who can also juggle, 2 jugglers who can also unicycle and 2 acrobats with another skill. I hoped that my range of different skills would stand me in good stead to impress the casting team. In the first audition there was actually very little opportunity to show off circus skills at all, only 5 minutes at the end of a half an hour dance session. But luckily I did enough to get the call back and in the second audition there was much more opportunity to showcase our skills as well as demonstrating our questionable dance abilities. After a few days of nervous waiting, I got the call offering me the contract. Along with myself, they had also picked Sam Goodburn, a very talented unicyclist who I’ve been friends with for a few years. I also found out that Bibi & Bichu, the jugglers from Giffords Circus, had got the juggling role which I was excited about as to get the chance to juggle with them was a great opportunity in itself.
— Zena’s Suitcase (@zenas_suitcase) March 27, 2015
On the first day there were so many introductions it was all a bit of a blur. We are taken through a script reading by Director Will Brenton and its a chance to meet Justin & Friends who included the main man himself, Justin Fletcher AKA Mr Tumble, Aunt Polly, Keith Fit and tonnes of other characters. The friends were made up of various Cbeebies favourites; Robert the Robot who is played by Steven Kynman, and the cast of presenters is completed by Andy Day, Gemma Hunt and Cat Sandion. As well as dance captain and danceasouros Sam Parker. We also met the two tumblers for the show Anesta Mathurin and Cecily Fay.
We had 3 weeks rehearsing in Black Island Studios. As circus performers we were playing a dual role as backing dancers so with a lot of choreography to learn, we got straight into it. The first 2 routines we learnt were nice and basic, choreographed so that 3 year olds could copy us which meant that after a couple of hours we had just about got to grips with it. Some days there was a lot of free time for the circus performers because we weren’t involved in all the numbers but I used this free time productively by nagging Bibi & Bichu to pass clubs as much as possible, or by messing around with tricky things on the unicycles with Sam. Its not often you get that much time in a warm comfortable area with lots of space to practice. The 4 of us were tasked with coming up with some kitchen related tricks to integrate into a housework scene with Aunt Polly. This was a matter of coming up with some tricks that we could do with plates, plungers and flare bottles. In the end the most reliable props were the plates, and plungers were a good weight for juggling with. The concept for the piece was based on us helping Aunt Polly but then always ending up playing tricks on her. It came together really nicely and because of the prankster theme of the routine it meant as we relaxed into it we had a lot of fun on stage performing it.
We also had to come up with our main unicycling piece, It was my first time working with Sam even though we’ve known each other for a while, we stayed late in the evenings practicing new stuff and came up with a really fun concept based on stealing a hat off each other. It was a strong idea that could be a great routine for the future. For this show we had to think about scale and what tricks would work well to the huge audiences we were performing. So with Wills direction it became a steal the hat from Justin routine with about 4 big tricks that were nice and visual.
So after 3 days tech rehearsals, numerous dress ones and 3 weeks total rehearsals it was curtains up on show day 1. We were very well drilled and I thought at that point that I knew the show quite well (I later found out I could know it much more thoroughly). The show opened with the set of Justin’s House. Robert the Robot is doing his dusting when he realises the audience are there. He then proceeds to welcome everyone on stage with a roar of applause as Justin comes through the door. high energy numbers of J-J-J-J–Justin and The instrument song. Both of which have everyone on stage dancing and singing along with copy and follow dance moves. Its all very happy with big smiles and loads of energy. I’m always happy when i’m on stage but I think I let my face drop quite a lot when i’m not consciously thinking about it so this was good learning for me from the start. Next up is Tiddles, the dance-asourous! Andy of Andy’s Dinosaur adventures and Swashbuckle Gem look for Tiddles in the panto ‘it’s behind you’ kind of way. Then we all go back on as dancing dinosaur rangers to walk the dinosaur!
The rest of the first half included some Robo-budgies dancing, the legendary Keith Fit and our kitchen circus scene with Aunt Polly which you can see a clip of below.
Doing the chores juggling in #cbeebieslive with @bibiandbichu & Sam Goodburn at Wembley A video posted by Lucas Jet Wintercrane (@lucasjetjuggler) on
The end of the Aunt Polly scene spells disaster for her kitchen as the washing machine overflows and we all have a foam party to ‘Happy’. The circus performers jumped around and played in the foam more and more every show, occasionally forgetting to perform our dance routines.
After the interval Mr Tumble makes his first appearance. Walking through the crowd with Bibi and Bichu as clown security guards for much needed child parent crowd control. He’s welcomed like a rockstar and it hits home just how big Mr Tumble is to these families.
My next involvement in the show is in the starlight scene. A lovely song sung beautifully by Andy, Cat and Gemma. They are supposed to be cleaning their bikes to complete Robert’s list. So with the help of lots of LEDs Gemma shows us how to make them sparkle! It was probably the scene that caused the most backstage stress because it involved so many strip lights which are very prone to not doing what you want them to do, causing constant wardrobe malfunctions. Earth wind and fire kicks in and all of us ride on from backstage on unicycles and bikes all of which are lit up beautifully. Together with the amazing lighting of the production this is a beautiful piece for the audience to enjoy.
The second half always flew by and it is quickly time for the circus finale. This is like one big epic finish, it just keeps going. It starts with Justin getting the children to help him build a circus by moving their arms in a big circle to draw the circus ring. The lighting is all very clever for this bit and the set is gradually transformed into the inside of a Big Top with Robert re-emerging as the Ringmaster. Robert hypes up the crowd even more and welcomes us on act by act.
First up is Tiddles with Andy and Gemma for a little more dinosaur action. Then its Anesta and Cecily, the Keith Fit fitties with an energetic and springy acro routine that has them flipping all over the stage to a geordie version of ‘Eye of the tiger’
Next up is Bibi and Bichu – Aunt Polly’s jugglers who start with 5 clubs and then go onto 7 with Justin trapped in the middle. The finale is 9 club passing with a huge ‘ooooh’ from the crowd as everything goes dark and the glow clubs light up in a beautiful flurry of colour.
We’re introduced as the final act, Sam & Lucas, the starlight unicyclists! We steal Justin’s hat, perform some fun doubles moves and play piggy in the middle with Justin, which according to audience feedback is really popular. On a personal note both times that I had significant amounts of family & friends in the audience it was the morning show and both times I fluffed one of my tricks and then had a perfect afternoon show. Pressure.
A video posted by Lucas Jet Wintercrane (@lucasjetjuggler) on
Everybody comes back on stage for what might have been a final bow, credit to the cast everyone learns a different circus skill for this final bow and its a huge finish. But its not over! There’s still time for 3 more songs! Mr Tumble makes another appearance for the final circus dance which is ‘Wouldn’t be a circus if it wasn’t for the clowns’. The whole cast are now dressed in amazing big clown costumes and beautiful circus outfits.
Just as some of us are about to melt into a pool of sweat there’s still room for a couple more party tunes, first up is ‘Hands up’ which could just about slip in unnoticed to a late night festival DJ set, its also probably the nearest I come to looking like a proper backing dancer and if it ever does come on in the club I’m sure the steps will come right back to me. We finish on ‘Reach’ by S-club 7 who ironically are doing all the same arena’s on a reunion tour so they had all their adverts around the venue. I bet we sold out more seats! I thought I would hate this song by the end but its probably one of my highlights of the show. You can see the pure wonder in the children’s eyes as they come down the front and get really close to Justin, the mums are singing along in nostalgia and the dads are playing it cool pretending they don’t know the words.
There was a funny moment for me every show during Reach when the ensemble don’t have anything choreographed so we are either side of the stage. I always try and wave to the children, they usually look back a bit perplexed, then Gem comes running past me waving and my side of the audience go crazy. I tried not to dwell on it but I won’t pretend I didn’t loose sleep regularly.
The tour in numbers
80,000 + audience throughout the tour
9 Arena’s, 22 shows
12 in the cast
7 on production
6 on stage management
4 on creative team
21 other people
Too many puddings!
To absolutely everyone involved throughout the project that made my experience so enjoyable. Everyone was so welcoming and friendly, each and every person is there to help each other out and there was so much positivity throughout the whole crew no matter how hard they were working or what role they were playing. Thanks also to all the families that brought tickets and made the tour so successful.
A couple of my favourite reviews
The Nottingham Post is my favourite review because it proves once and for all that i’m a ‘fearless guy’. Ha
I also really like Zena’s Suitcase’s review because it has some lovely photos and gives nice credit to the circus performers ‘awesome juggling and breathtaking unicycling’.