Wednesday 6 September 2023

Jake Silvestro on bringing together circus, nature and rollerskates (Melbourne Fringe Festival)

Put a group of people together in any situation and there are bound to be disagreements and arguments. Put a group of people together in an unfamiliar environment and things will intensify even further. Created and performed by circus artists Jake Silvestro and Romain Hassanin, Alienation is a physical theatre show at Melbourne Fringe Festival that explores our relationships and interactions with each other and nature.

Silvestro and Hassanin have been collaborating on Alienation since 2020 but it wasn't until Silvestro happened to come across a quote by art critic Martin Gayford that he realised what it was they wanted to say. "Romain and I had some ideas about what we wanted to do, but couldn't firmly say how they were connected or socially relevant. I find with projects that build over long time periods, the downtime between rehearsals is an opportunity to keep your eyes open and see what is out in the world that corroborates your practice, and that was definitely the case with "A History of Pictures" by David Hockney and Martin Gayford," Silvestro tells me. "I was reading that book and came across the quote “... alienation, the way in which, especially in Western Culture, people are separated psychologically and economically both from each other and from the natural world”, and it tied together a bunch of elements from this new work in a more succinct way than I could have come up with."

Silvestro's previous solo piece, December, brought together his circus skills and drawing and illustration background with a spotlight on environment, specifically the Australian bush fires of 2019/2020. Land and nature is a theme that he hopes to continue to tie his work to, including Alienation. "I want to invite audiences to reflect on the world around them, and I think circus is a powerful way to do that. I learnt that best when I was touring with Circus OZ," he explains. "People would come see the show and they have preconceived ideas about what circus is, but once they are in the theatre you can present challenging and new ideas to them. I want to integrate environmental themes into circus because it’s a way to get audiences to ask questions and consider their own perspective on things like the climate crisis."

With over ten years experience performing across Australia and internationally, there's still plenty out there that inspires and surprises Silvestro's creativity and his practice. "There are so many of my peers putting on amazing independent work in Australia right now with shows like Party Ghost, and companies like A Good Catch, Legs on the Wall and Circus Oz," he tells me. "I am lucky to be working at the Flying Fruit Fly Circus where many great circus talents come and generate new works and teach the students."

"But I also get motivated from films, books, music and art galleries. Sometimes I feel like I’ve never had an original thought in my life because there is so much content out there, but that also gives me an infinite number of resources to reference. My fine art studies taught me to ask questions and be critical of my emotional response to art. I try to use this when I'm making my own work and imagine how I help guide the thoughts and emotions of others."

"With Alienation, I'm attempting to bring in acrobatics with more contemporary dance, more absurdism, more rollerskating and more ways to spend time with Romain," he says. "Romain really inspires me and it has been great building something with him that we can share with audiences. I hope they have a fun while watching it, and while it's a simple ambition, I want to show the lighter side of my practice post December, which was more on the dramatic side. I want to give people something energetic that they can clap and cheer along with."


1) My favourite meal is food! I love japanese food, indian food, good croissants, good mushrooms, good coffee! exciting vegan food! Can I say dinner is my favorite meal because its often a social event!? The list could go on and on. 

2) A TV show I would like to be cast in is The Mighty Boosh because it looked equal parts hilarious and magical. The earlier season especially had this great low-fi vibe that seemed to enhance the story telling, it wasn't even about the narrative content, it was about the way they told the story that had me hooked!
3) A little known skill I have is I can drop into the bowl at my local skatepark.
4) My proudest professional moment is touring with Dislocate in their show If These Walls Could Talk and premiering December in the Playhouse at the Canberra Theatre Centre.
5) Happiness is the beach, bike rides and a good book.

Show Details

Venue: National Institute of Circus Arts, 35-59 Green St, Prahran

Season: 5 - 14 October | Wed - Sat 7:45pm
Duration: 60 minutes

Tickets: $35 Full | $30 Concession | Hump Day Discount (Wednesday) $26.25
Bookings: Melbourne Fringe Festival

Image Credit: Creswick

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