Mâts & Cordages

Festivities are under way in Quebec with the celebration of the 150th anniversary of Canada’s Confederation. Organised by École de Cirque de Québec, Mats & Cordages is a performance project arranged to coincide with the arrival of the tall ship fleet in Quebec.

Students from the Quebec Circus school and others from around the world, have been working together to create two shows to be performed outdoors on the coast of Canada. NICA second year student Emily Chilvers, who specialises in rope and hand balancing, has been in Quebec taking part in the project. She has been working with 19 other young performers to create two unique shows. We had a quick chat with Emily to find out more about this amazing experience.


What have been the best moments of the residency?

By far the best part of this experience has been meeting amazing new people from all over the world. Learning about the schools they have come from, their varied backgrounds and experiences of the circus industry. One of my best memories was a day of hiking up the famous waterfall in Quebec with some of the cast, hiding under the zip line platform playing dice games while we waited for the rain to stop. Our pre-show chants would change each show, and would get pretty silly, my favourite being ‘Yannick is our new Dad’ referring to Yannick taking over as acting director when Vincent had to leave. Apart from that, the venue was a lovely one to perform in, surrounded by the masts of huge ships, on our cool custom made stages, getting bold costume tan lines. Getting the chance to train and skill share with other cast members between shows was very valuable.


What were some of the challenges you faced?

Probably the biggest challenge was the language barrier. I was the only performer in my group who didn’t speak French. It took a lot more effort to know what was going on at times, whether I was able to pick up the meaning and context with my limited comprehension, or whether I had to stop things to have people translate for me. In the creation process, ideas and problem-solving can move quickly and at times it was tricky to stay in the loop. Another challenge was that the show schedule was quite dense. We were performing in the hot sun (or in the rain) three times a day for two weeks with no days off. I had never performed that frequently or without rest days before and it was quite a learning experience.



Did you find any differences in circus culture in Quebec?

Quebecois audiences are well exposed to circus and open to engaging with street shows, which are often supported by the city. The general public seemed more knowledgeable about circus than I have experienced in Australian cities.

What did you hope to achieve through the project?

I hoped to connect with new people half way around the world, learn more about the circus industry outside of Australia, experience what it was like to be part of a full-time creation process, and gain more experience performing.

Come see Emily and all the NICA second years perform their ensemble show, PRECIPICE. Directed by Zebastian Hunter and running 20 – 23 September at the NICA performance space in Prahran. CLICK HERE FOR MORE INFO & TO BOOK TICKETS



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