Run Away With the Circus – At 52!
Julie McInnes as Prospera by Charles William Pelletier - Costume credit: Mérédith Caron (c) 2012 Cirque du Soleil
It’s never too late to run away with the circus – Cirque du Soleil, that is.
They fly through the air with only aerial straps. They spin on unicycles like figure skaters without the ice. They cross tight wire en pointe. They perform the uneven bars, en masse and in sync. Then there’s a remarkable balancing feat that holds the audience in rapt anticipation while the band adds suspenseful accompaniment. And all this is just from the women of Cirque du Soleil Amaluna.
For the first time in the company’s 28-year history, they make up the majority of the cast, and leading the troupe is 52-year-old Julie McInnes. She plays Prospera, the female counterpart to Shakespeare’s Prospero, in a production inspired by The Tempest unlike any I’ve seen before and, about seeing this for herself, McInnes responded emphatically, “Absolutely not.”
“I thought all the kids are just going to want to go clubbing and how will I come home to myself and get enough of that, which I value. I thought about it hard. You know anybody that’s my age and is willing to uproot themselves – it’s not for everyone that’s for sure,” she declared.
McInnes describes herself as “fairly restless” and avows that touring with Cirque’s new Big Top show, discovering new places along the way, feeds that but also affords her the chance to plan for her future.
“I’ll have a much better idea of where I want to settle after doing this tour,” she reflected. “Because I’ve obviously made a choice to come a long way from my country a long time ago and, after a certain amount of time, I didn’t really feel like it could be home anymore. And that gets a little frightening when you’re hitting 50 – you kind of have to know where you are.”
However, fear is not the emotion McInnes conveys, especially while playing cello (just one of many instruments she’s mastered) suspended high above the crowd at one point of the show, perched on what looks like the skeleton of a crescent moon.
“Well, when you asked about my favourite moment – I had a wish many years ago, I started to work on an a piece of apparatus that was going to help me fly with the cello. The amount of effort that was put into this lovely wish to see me fly in the air – and I ended up going a lot higher than I thought we were going to because I had to get out of the way of the aerial structure,” she explained. “So I ended up rocking around up there at about 60 feet, but that is an exhilarating moment. It’s a great ride. I said to them you should probably put this out as a sideshow extra and get money for it and people would have a riot.”
Like everyone else, even circus performers, McInnes has to plan for the future and retirement.
“I do think about it but I don’t put a timeline on it. I think financially I’m doing all the right things – doing what I can – I can imagine myself working in smaller theatre groups, small physical performances or film and I’ve got quite a collection of great creative people all around the world. And so, if I don’t worry about it and keep going the way I have, I trust that I’ll be Ok. I don’t think I could keep doing this in my 60s; I’d be a total wreck,” she says with a laugh.