Conan Whitehouse - Dominion Post
Bringing the magic of vaudeville to a contemporary stage only takes a bit of creative thinking, and a touch of walking on bottles.
That is the message from the multi-talented Chelsea McGuffin, who will be taking to the stage tonight as the vaudevillian Cantina opens under the red roof of the Festival Club.
As well as performing, McGuffin has developed and directed the cabaret-style show, bringing her experience in ballet to the fore as music and dance combine to create a unique twist on the traditional circus show.
Artists totter on stilettos, perform acrobatics and throw each other around the stage, while Depression-era music keeps the beat. McGuffin even walks along the top of some champagne bottles, just to keep the audience on its toes.
But despite the sideshow influence, McGuffin was determined to create a cohesive one-hour performance without the stopping and starting of a traditional vaudeville show.
By both directing and performing the show, McGuffin, 36, could access a unique point of view.
"There are some benefits to being on both sides. At some stage I'd like to move towards just directing, but at the moment I love working from inside an ensemble together with the artists to create what we want.
"It's nice to have a vision that we are all working towards and with such a strong ensemble like this one it creates a really cohesive performance."
Having started ballet at the age of five in her home country of Australia, McGuffin "fell into" circus performance when she was 21.
After meeting someone who was involved with circus, she soon found herself joining a travelling circus and learning everything from acrobatics to tightrope walking while on the road. "It took me a few years to find my place in circus. I didn't know at first if it was what I wanted to be doing, but I was enjoying using my body in a different way and the challenges it poses.
"But soon I found a company where I could bring my dance right into circus and find a new way for my various skills to talk to each other."
That combination of dance and circus was the driving force behind creating Cantina, with McGuffin trying to create a show that was accessible, while still bringing something different to the stage.
"We want to bring this old vaudeville style back to the stage, but in a more contemporary way. We do try to make it feel like there's a touch of one of those old-time cabaret shows, but keep it a little bit more fun and cheeky."
With 15 shows over the next two weeks, the performers have to be conscious of looking after themselves, McGuffin says.
"We're all experienced performers and touring artists, so we're used to sleeping all day and working at night. You simply dust yourself off, patch up your bruises in the morning and then get on the stage to do it all again."
Cantina, Festival Club, tonight, 8.30pm until March 18.