Gwen Hales: director / choreographer / mentor / maker
Gwen is a Bristol-based circus-theatre maker, director, choreographer and mentor.
In a previous life, she has worked as an aerialist, a street performer, a fire-eater and a clown. She stopped touring with circuses in 2003 to concentrate on her own work in street theatre and narrative circus-theatre. Gwen now works freelance, collaborating with UK circus & theatre companies, and specialising in creating performance work that crosses the boundaries between skills and narrative.
In addition to her freelance work, Gwen runs two companies: Circii (comedic physical theatre for outdoor events) and Juggling Inferno (high-skill fire performances).
Mainly an autodidact, Gwen completed a Masters degree in Directing Circus at Circomedia/Bath Spa University in September 2018.
Gwen is a founder member of the infamous circus-theatre company Pirates of the Carabina. Their show FLOWN won the Total Theatre Award for Physical/Visual Theatre at Edinburgh in 2013. This show continues to tour, but without Gwen performing in it.
In 2012 Gwen was part of the core devising team for the Olympic sailing opening ceremony in Weymouth, Battle for the Winds. This complicated co-production from Cirque Bijou and Desperate Men included an innovative mobile street show and a theatrical spectacle set on a bespoke structure suspended from a crane.
Gwen was the Aerial Director on Bristol Old Vic‘s 2012 production of Peter Pan (dir. Sally Cookson) and this production was reworked for the National Theatre for Christmas 2016. www.nationaltheatre.org.uk/shows/peter-pan
She was Aerial Director for the touring production of Hetty Feather (dir. Sally Cookson), which was nominated for an Olivier Award in 2015. This show is happily returning for winter 2017/18. www.hettyfeatherlive.com
She also worked as Hammock Consultant(!) on the Tobacco Factory‘s 2014 Christmas production of Sinbad (dir. Craig Edwards), as Aerial Consultant on Life On Wheels, a 2015/16 show from circus company Bella Kinetica, and as Director on aerial duo CirqOn the Seam‘s 2017 production, Betwixt & Between.
Gwen collaborated with Sally Cookson for a stage adaption of the classic Fellini film La Strada – a co-production from Belgrade Theatre Coventry, Kenny Wax Ltd, Cambridge Arts Theatre and Bristol Old Vic. www.lastradalive.com
She worked with the National Theatre again on their 2017 production of Angels in America (dir. Marianne Elliott). www.nationaltheatre.org.uk/shows/angels-in-america
Gwen worked with Sally Cookson on The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe for Christmas 2017. www.wyp.org.uk/events/lion-witch-wardrobe and this show is heading for London soon.
A big part of Gwen’s life is encouraging other performers to be the best they can be.
As a volunteer manager of the Albany Centre (an artist-run training space for circus practitioners in Bristol) since 2005, and through the two outdoor arts companies she runs, Gwen has been informally mentoring younger and less-experienced performers for many years. More recently, this mentoring role has become formalised and Gwen has worked for Circus Futures and the Bath Fringe Festival artist development scheme to encourage artists to take risks, solidify their practice, and plan for the future.
Gwen also now takes on private performance coaching and project mentoring for circus and street theatre performers and makers.