A divine body of work

Hanging high: Eve Gordon and Mike Edward in their circus burlesque extravaganza.
Hanging high: Eve Gordon and Mike Edward in their circus burlesque extravaganza.

Eve Gordon is probably best known her role as Stacey, goddess and cycle courier, in TV3's  The Almighty Johnsons. Her face, that is. Now her face comes second to her physique in  Love and Money, a circus burlesque extravaganza from The Dust Palace, the circus company she created four years ago as a vehicle for her ideas and circus skills. In Love and Money 31-year-old joins her real life partner, Mike Edward, 37, also best known for his television role - as Zac Smith in Shortland Street.

Real experience colours the story, which involves three other  circus performers and looks at the lives, loves and emotions of strippers. "Love and Money comes from Mike's  past. He was a stripper in his youth,  in Auckland and on the Gold Coast,'' says Gordon. ''He took his experiences and his ex-partner took her experiences and other people contributed to the script. What we knew about the industry and memories started the story, the lives of strippers.''

Having a strong story, she says, is essential in circus theatre.  ''The storytelling is the most important thing to us. You can have the most amazing tricks in the world, but if there's no story it's gratuitous, it can be really boring. It can be technically amazing, but it just doesn't contribute to society." 

Dust Palace is run out of a modest warehouse in Penrose, Auckland. Gordon and Edward live in a tiny flat over the ''shop''. It is, she says, the only way they can viably run their fledgling business. 

The couple got together in 2009.  ''We started training together first of all and totally fell in love.''  Their joint  approach to circus,  she says, can only be described as passionate. ''I think it  has to be. It's not a very safe existence both physically and financially, not an easy thing to do.'' 

Gordon decided when she was 12 that she wanted to be an actress, and trained at a drama school in Auckland. But straight acting made her ponder  what she was contributing to the world. Circus captured her after she was asked to assist at a circus-skills class.

 ''I had been doing some balance acrobatics  and was brought into the class to be the spotter, stopping people falling off things, and I started learning lots of things that made me go 'Wow'.
''It's such an amazing way of communicating ideas to an audience because it's so vital and real, and the danger is so proximate. It gives you a real tension you can use in the theatre. I loved that aspect of it right away. 

The focus on physical skill over appearance appeals to her.  ''I've never had a model look, personally.  As an actor there's so much emphasis on what you look like and I never fitted that model. As soon as focus was trained on my body, it revolutionised what I felt about myself. I had  never had to rate my body. Now, if my body could do amazing things that was all that was needed ... and if it didn't, I needed to train harder.'' 

The perils of the job were reinforced for her by the recent fatal plunge on stagte of a Cirque du Soleil performer Sarah Guillot-Guyard, the first in that company's 29 years.

"It reminds you it is so dangerous, so precarious. YOu hav ot be so careful at all times. You have to be constantly aware that something might fail you, that you might lose your grip. With most of the work  we do, we don't have safety harnesses. 

Gordon has never had an onstage fall or slip. The worst injury she has had was a nasty neck burn from slipping down ribbons while practising aerial silk work. Most circus artists have such burns ''in their time'', she says. ''It's a nylon fabric you use and burns are par for the course. I was training too late at night, tired, and by myself, and that's a no-no."  
Most days she trains for three or four hours. "You have to treat yourself like an athlete. That's the level we're at. It's amazing to come to to - all of a sudden, one day - the realisaton that this is what I do. 

- Dust Palace's Love and Money is on at Downstage from August 8 to 24.. 

The Dominion Post