From the creative minds at the Old Fire Station comes a collaboration between the two charities (Arts at the Old Fire Station and Crisis Skylight Oxford) to bring you a good old-fashioned night out at the circus. This is a circus unlike any you've seen before however, as it brings to the stage stories and voices never heard before and a glimpse into the grit beneath the glamour. Sawdust was created by the clients of Crisis, people affected by homelessness, and the piece is uniquely theirs; from writing and directing to designing the set and music, they have been involved at every level. After all, who better to tell a story of moving incessantly from place to place in order to find their next meal, and the friendships forged along the way?
We meet the performers of Viva Vintage Circus, a run-down callback to days of yore with acrobats, mimes and lion tamers all just trying to earn their keep in a world fast leaving them behind. At the helm is Kristoff, a charmer in the limelight but a far more flawed, unpredictable man when the curtain falls. Around him are the cast of the circus, a motley crew of passionate individuals who've given up everything just for a taste of stardom, even if that taste is bitter and leaves them hungry and cold. At times all they have is each other, but even that is fraught when the money isn't coming in.
The aesthetic of Sawdust is one of faded glory, glitter and sequins masking bare boards and costumes that have seen better days, which is a nice touch to expose the show's genuine heart around which the story is built. Monologues flow into songs with the live musical accompaniment and we meet each performer just for an intimate moment as they tell their story, before heading back under the twinkling lights to plaster on a smile for the paying public. By the end of the show, we are left wondering who really is running this circus and who is a puppet being pulled by unseen strings.
When adults and children embark into the big top they do so only to be entertained, and Sawdust definitely delivers. On top of being an absolute credit to the charities and individuals who have brought it to life, it is a piece that brings all the laughter and tears one expects when paying admission, with a splash of razzle-dazzle showmanship and plenty of truth to sink your teeth into. Come for the acrobats, and stay for the secrets of backstage, where the real show is only beginning.