Keen-eyed readers may recall that the Star Observer ran an interview with Ross Mollison, creative impresario behind the Spiegelworld Empire show, almost exactly 12 months ago as the show started its Australian tour.
Now, a year later, the wildly successful tour shows no sign of slowing down, with a Sydney return season booked for January.
For Turkish-born performer Memet Bilgin, it’s a relentless touring schedule, tasked as he is with one of the show’s most difficult numbers.
“I did aerial work when I first started doing circus. Now, I’m doing numbers that are much more in the realm of ‘kinetic sculptures’. I have a background in mime and dance, both of which help me to do what I am now,” Bilgin told the Star Observer.
While it’s hard to adequately describe what Bilgin does in his guise as Empire’s resident ‘3D Graffiti Guide’ – look up ‘Sanddorn Balance’ on YouTube to see it for yourself – it seems apt to describe him as occupying a space somewhere between a sculptor and an acrobat. Slowly, methodically and with the utmost care, Bilgin builds impressive sculptures from many different pieces, a precarious house of cards that he balances on different parts of his body.
“It’s a pyramid of support, if you will. There’s only one critical path, so one mistake breaks the entire chain. There’s no way to make a mistake that will break only half of the number – one error and it all comes crashing down,” he said.
“For instance, if the foot jugglers in our show make a mistake, they can recover relatively easily; within a second or two they’re back in business and the audience cheers even more. This number is extremely long – about 12 minutes – and if I go 11 minutes and make a mistake, I’m back to the start. It’s very difficult, and there’s really no room for error.”
We had to ask…has disaster struck during the tour?
“It’s happened a couple of times, always thankfully at the very end of the act. By that stage, I really am at the mercy of the elements. One time there was a draft in the house, and another time one of the sticks got bent. It’s the last thing I want to happen and I try to avoid it at all costs.”
In Bilgin’s adoptive home of Montreal, Canada, he made the leap from a career in computer programming to the performing arts. It’s hard to imagine a desk-bound computer geek suddenly discovering he’s capable of almost supernatural feats of balance – Bilgin said he was always a “scientific, sports kind of guy”, but only discovered an appreciation for the arts in his early 20s.
Of course, art is one thing, but sex sells. Bilgin is just one of many in the Spiegelworld family to showcase their spectacular bodies during their performances.
“We do recognise that [sex appeal] is a factor in the show. We’re all fit and to ourselves we look normal, but I recognise that it’s a thing. There’s nothing wrong with that – people are welcome to look!”
info: Empire by Spiegelworld opens at the Entertainment Quarter, Moore Park, on Jan 7 2014. Tickets through Ticketek.