The collective’s members come from a diverse range of backgrounds – from everything including jobs to country of origin. For instance, Helene Embling, jokingly described as “Head Xamel”, hails from France and had a whole other life in engineering and architecture before she moved into circus. When she emigrated to Australia, Embling hooked up with the National Institute of Circus Arts and Circus Oz, running aerial skills night classes, which is where she met the other members of the troupe. That said, it’s not just circus that unites them. “We met by connections and our interest for performance art,” Embling says. “We are equally amused and interested by the same things. It is like a common ground, so to say.”
The Flying Xamels have been working together for three years now, fostering a sense of connection that they want to share with their audience. In particular, they’re keen to convey the sense of vulnerability that comes from the physical risk associated with circus (let’s face it, it’s not that long ago that a Cirque du Soleil performer died) and the closeness that’s fostered between a crew who’ve toiled in hours of rehearsal.
The collective includes Melbourne-based sketch artist and Froth cartoonist Michael Alesich, who will whip up a work in real time before the audience’s eyes. The rest of the team is made up of circus performers Jessie Carson, Michael Chia, Xavier Sisquella, Markary Szewczenko and Tran Tu. Amongst them are physios, biologists, accountants and real-estate agents, and collectively the group hails from far flung parts of the globe including China, Vietnam, Spain, Denmark, France, Russia, as well as Australia.
The fact that the ensemble is so diverse has given it licence to push the envelope when it comes to the show’s humour. “There are a few in-jokes with our two asian performers, for example,” Embling says. “Some people might get it, some might not. We do it in a politically incorrect way to challenge social perception.”
The narrative for 4 + 4 = 4 sits somewhere between Jacque Tati and What We Do In The Shadows. “It goes anywhere,” Embling says. “It is a very intense and ultimately non-verbal form of communication. What we have done is create a visual and aerial world. We’ve taken poetic risk to some kind of edge.” In more prosaic terms, the show is about the balance of artistic endeavours against the necessity for a day job.
Even though the Fringe show is yet to kick off, Embling is already turning her mind to the Flying Xamel’s next work – she knows at least that she wants it to involve parkour.
“It is an interesting point in circus at the moment. It is an art form of extremes. The important point is for it to try not to repeat itself.”
BY ASHEDA WEEKES
Venue: The Gingerbread House – Emerald City, Meat Market.
Dates: September 20 – September 25
Time: 9.45pm (Sunday 8.45pm)
Tickets: $22.50 – $28