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YOU: A Circus Script by James Kingsford-Smith

Stage is a mess as the audience enters. A man is lethargically cleaning up the items on the ground and putting things in place. He looks tired and worn. He is wearing a dressing gown and no pants.

He finally puts on his pants.

The doors close. The man takes a heavy sigh and ties back his hair, takes off his dressing gown like a cape to hide behind.

Suddenly Music and lights blare into existence. (Music: Misunderstood by Santana Esmarelda)


The man transforms, alive with energy. He performs flamenco and incredible things on ribbons above the audience. He is charming, cheek and funny. He seduces individual members of the audience in shameless display of self-celebration. He rolls far above their heads on the straps and then comes crashing down, saving himself just before he reaches them.

Music out: BLACK.

I know, right… What an introduction!

Lights come up. And the Man is posing seductively on the straps.

Well, now that I’ve have had the opportunity to get a little hot and closer to you… Perhaps I can more formally introduce myself.

My name is James. Or at least that is what I have been told. But I think I believe it.

From this assumption I have actually been able to work out many things about myself.

I am 34 years old. My hair is brown. My eyes are greenish blue. I am 173 cm short. I have a penis. I also have the choice to decide if this makes me a man. I believe in fact that I am a man. I am Caucasian. People of my skin colour and sex seem to have ruined world. My favourite colour is red. That last sentence was a lie. Adults don’t have favourite colours. I have 2320 friends on Facebook. I don’t think I could remember more than 150 of them. I am interested in circus and science. I like attention. I don’t like sport. I feel scared about the future of this planet. I have a daughter. I have a about 5 million hair follicles on my body. I have anxiety issues. I have intimacy issues. I have an allergy to 20-year olds telling me to be more mindful. I don’t know my IQ. I don’t fully understand quantum physics. I don’t believe in God. I do believe in people… though often I wonder if this is wise.

But enough about Me. We did not come here to today to talk about Me.

In fact, we came here to talk about ………..

Y, y,y,y,y,y,y,,y , ,,y,y,y,,y,.

Well… yyyyyaaaaaahhhh. Ye. Ye. Ye. Yeyeyeyyeyeyeye yai! Woh, woh, woh!

Takes as step back and try to run at the audience to say the word.

Ye. Ye. Ya yeeeey. Ge ge ge ge. YUUUU (sound of a blender.) Yaaaaah. Caw caaaw

(Chicken caws.)

We ca. We ca. We ca. we came. We came. We, we, we came to talk.

We came to talk. We came to talk about…

Heavy breathes. Hyperventilates.

We came, to talk about y, y, y, y, y. (grabs his head and tries to force the word out)

Yyyyyyyyyyyy YOU!

Pause as James recovers

My God, I’m glad I got that out.

To be honest, I’m actually feeling a little bit lost. I’m feeling that I might not truly know who am. It’s difficult these days. It is confusing, no?

In fact it’s really starting to bother me. I’m scared that I might not ever know who I am. What the deep nature of my essence i-

A large orange fitness ball rolls towards him and into light.


WAIT. There is I am. I found me.

Music starts: The Professional by Ennio Morricone

Oh! It’s ME! (looking out through the audience.) I can’t believe it. It’s really me! (Walks through crowd.)

I have found you. Finally. The external personification of myself! The true spiritual core of my existence… You look a little fat!

No. That doesn’t matter. I have found me. I am complete in myself and on myself (climbs on ball.) I feel stable here. (begins to wobble.)

No! I am at peace and very much centred in reality. (Tries to make a meditation pose and wobbles.) Stop it! Behave yourself, inner child! (Wobbles again)

No this is not possible.

James knows who he is. I know my icloud password. I know my voice recognition tone. This is my voice. Wait is this my voice? Is this my voice? This is my voice? Is this my voice? Is this my voice? (Changing accents each time while knee walking on the ball finishing with a an English accent.)

I have a confession… I was born in the England. Cringes from audience.

But I’m not sure! That is just what my mother told me. We were travelling around a lot so one can never be sure.

To be honest the whole question of where you come from puts a me in a spin.

Belly rolls.

Ha. That was exemplification.

No, our mothers would never lie to us. Our mothers are very intelligent.

Hey, would you like to see a trick?

Jumps and lands flat on his face with feet on the ball.

Unfortunately, not everything is hereditary.

Slowing getting in position to do the dolphin dive

But there are lots of different kinds of intelligence. For example; the intelligence of being poor. It’s very, very easy to just buy your way out of trouble but much more difficult to solve your problems when you are totally broke. I’m sure many of you can relate.

Dolphin dive to fall on face.

Then I think about the people in war torn, developing countries that have continually been exploited by our colonial empires… and I think, wow! Those fuckers must be geniuses!

Wait, this was the trick I wanted to do.


Do you know the word, Sonder? It is the experience of walking down the street and realizing that everybody that you see and meet are living lives just as complex and interesting as yours. (Said while repeating the trick over and over.)

Finish with shoulder roll and face the back.

Ah!!! Where have you gone?

Look right and left. Flare to face them.

Oh, there you are! Sometimes I get so confused.

The world is surprizing. Bounces from belly to sit. It - keep - changing - angle - all - the time.

Picks up ball and walks to stage left. And yes some change really does hurt my balls as much as it looks.

But one thing that doesn’t seem to change is distribution. Did you know that the world’s wealthiest 20% use more than 85% of the world’s resources. (getting into position for mana (Russian v sit) and holds it at the end of line.) I know I fell over backwards when I heard this.

Going back to my mother. (kneeling on ball) My mother told me… “James! You can do anything! You can climb the highest mountain, swim the furthest stream. If you believe in yourself you can even - fly!”

Makes a jump and ends standing on ball.

And now, I can stand on a ball!

Well my mother was not a bird. Well no a flighty bird. Maybe more like a penguin.

Penguin impression

Wait, do you want to see a trick? Okay. On the count of three. One, two three.

Back rolls into audience.

Hey! Give that back! You have no right to touch ME like that!

That is what I call my ball. I call him ME. In a Scottish accent. But I’m getting carried away by meself.

Hey, would you guys like to see a trick that I’m not sure if I can do?

I could get very injured!


Trust a Berlin audience to be filled with sadists.

Handstand on ball. Pick up and hold in front of belly.

I know what a lot of you people might be thinking right now…

Is that guy pregnant?

Well no. I am just feeling a little emotional right now. It is very hot on this stage. I was hoping that it would be cooler somehow but to quote Greta “I don’t want your hope I want you to act as if your house is on fire, because it is!”

Would you like to see a trick?



Throw ball and it bounces off the wall and knocks him out. Black out.


Are you still there? That’s good. This is going much better than normal!

Lights up. James is standing with a bear stool in front of his face.

Don’t shoot!

From there James plays with the awkwardness of the moment. To be confirmed in rehearsal but ideas include

· Imitating the audiences expressions

· Trying to crowd surf

· Crowd surfing the ball

· Pointing games

· Playing with all of the ways that you can say the word “you”

· Pretending to be a monkey and beating chest

· Accusing, seducing, being surprized, confused ect.

· Generally being very childish.

· Finish by throwing the word YOU at someone in the back of the room. Indicate that they might have it splattered on their face.

Um… you should probably wipe that YOU off your face…. It doesn’t suit you.


You know … this show was actually inspired by a two year old.

Music; Orcancy by Bodyfool

(Anecdotal tone)

My daughter, Mika. She is almost 8 now… but back when she was two and learning to speak she used to get confused between the words YOU and ME.

It’s quite an easy mistake to make at first. If I refer to you as YOU then perhaps you assume that your pronoun is actually you. So, when you go to introduce yourself to other people you might remark “Hello, I am YOU.”

She would take the concept further to possessions. If someone took one of her toys or her bottle, she would cry in despair “No that is yours. Give it back to you!”

This got me thinking, what is the actual difference between you and me?

(TedTalk tone)

Biologically it’s only a few thousand base proteins within a single strand of DNA. This is less than 0.5% of our entire genetic make-up. To put this in perspective, there is such a vast genetic difference between a grain of Japanese rice and a grain of Indian rice that they are actually considered different species!

Picks up crutch and analyses it.

In science we always have a degree of uncertainty. We say “we can’t be completely sure it’s 4.7 but it’s definitely between 4 and 5.” If we were to take any reasonable degree of uncertainty when comparing the differences in our DNA, we could almost disregard a tiny difference like 0.5%.

Puts on crutches and begins walking feet up the side of the prop.

If we then challenged our first assumptions like our names, ethnicity and point of origin, this means, scientifically speaking, I could, for all intensive purposes, be… YOU.

Now of course I don’t believe this. That would make me crazy.

Dislocate. Put the first foot on the loop. As speech continues, James walks upside down.

Speculative tone.

Now imagine this for a moment. You are me and I am you and we are all in fact YOU’s. And us YOUs are all walking around every day saying “hello Me, how is Me today?” And the other would say “hi there. You is doing fine. Thanks for asking” How would this change the way that we think about helping ourselves?

It would be very important that you make sure that YOU gets fed, has enough to keep YOU interested and that YOU is loved and respected. It would be completely in your own self-interest to care of as many YOUs as possible.

(Deliberate tone.)

Perhaps when we imagine the world like this, we would see that it is not our differences which are important but our similarities which makes our species special. It is our commonness that has led to all of the beautiful things that human beings have made. We built flying machines and invisible strings of communications over oceans not because of one person but because of a collective consciousness. We built our world together and only seem to break things down when we focus on our differences.

I’m not saying that uniqueness is not important. I’m just saying that uniqueness is only 0.5%. Commonness is the rule.

I think perhaps that my daughter had it right from the beginning.

40 seconds only crutches dancing.

We learn to see differences clearer than similarities and that is a big problem.

I know that we are not perfect but I think we are all trying to be better. Myself too, myself too, myself too. Myself too.

Looks at the crutch he pointing at the audience.

People often ask me why I dance on crutches when I can actually walk. I swear I’m not trying to make fun of anyone or even make a point about disability. I just think they are so frinking artistic!

No, I guess I use them to help me stand up tall in front of you of you. You are all quite intimidating people. But I figure we all use crutches of some kind to help ourselves behave like ourselves.

Sometimes I feel more like a highly researched character than a person. A caricature that I play for the people around me. A parody of how I think you want me to be for you. Perhaps you do this too… Wear yourself like an armour… a shield to protect all of that fragile uncertainty?

Or maybe not. Maybe you know exactly who you are and it is just me with the problem. Maybe I just need to lighten up. Just relax, go on dates, get a girlfriend. Maybe she could tell me who I am? Laughs!

Oh, that reminds me! Would you people like to hear a pseudo-scientific theory I’ve cooked up on the subject of love?

Yes? No? Well I’m going to tell it anyway because I wrote it in the script.

It is called;


One more time?


Now I know not everybody likes talking about monogamy and polyamory, they would rather just cheat on their partners and hope no one finds out. And I know that not everyone finds nuclear physics very exciting. So, if you do get bored or offended by all the blah blah blah, feel free to stop listening, faze out and just enjoy die sexy German circus (wiggles hips). I am sorry. That was not particularly sexy. I’m very sorry to all the Germans in the room.

Music starts: Hammock, What Heaven Allows.

Lights change. As speech continues, James is performing a complex series of handstand tricks


So, the human body is mainly made up of hydrogen, nitrogen, carbon and oxygen. These are actually very universal elements making up 75% of our Milky Way but that is not the point.

The point is; they are all very small elements. All very low on the periodic table and thus candidates for Fusion reactions, rather than Fission reactions.

Now when larger elements like Uranium go through nuclear process, it’s called Fission. You take a large element, you fire smaller partials at it until it splits apart and releases its binding energy.

Handstand walk to side of stage.

Now binding energy is important so I want you to remember this concept. There is an intrinsic energy that encased in the mass of all atoms. This is called binding energy.

(Handstand on blocks and flick through book.) Now for smaller atoms, binding energy works differently. (Shoulder roll) If your atoms are made of less than 52 proton, like ours are, they have to combine to release this binding energy. This is called nuclear fusion and it is the only nuclear process that our elements can go through. (Book on face and Russian lever). I’m just going to keep trying that trick until I get it.

Let’s take one of our main elements, Oxygen! Rolls to take other book. When two Oxygen nuclei meet let’s say at a late night speak easy in Kreuzberg, (Book puppetry) they have to overcome massive distancing forces. First, they have to get into the same bar and then same table, then they have overcome the electrical repulsion of their electrons buzzing around their heads. (Narrow handstand) These are like your annoying friends who just don’t get the hint that you might want to talk to somebody else. (Jump to Japanese) But even after you get the electrons out of the way you still have the positive-positive repulsion of your protons. (Fingers in the wholes) This I would liken to the 101 excuses you could make for NOT going home with this person tonight, he’s drunk, I have my period, my flatmate will have to listen to me having sex.

But if you do overcome these fears and you do have sex (Rubbing books together) and then you do fall in love… then EUREKA! You’ve done it! (throws books)

(Figa sequence) The sparks fly and it feels amazing as all of that binding energy is released in a spectacular nuclear explosion. Suddenly the world doesn’t seem so complicated. You have found someone that completes you and it feels amazing! This is Fusion and releases more energy than Fission…. So ha, maybe Hollywood was right! Love does conquer all!

But wait! (looking in a book) We may have missed something.

Walk to the front. Do you remember the equation e=mc2? Energy equals mass times the square of the speed of light. So, if energy is being released during a reaction isn’t it actually taking a significant part of you along with it?

Backflip to handstand.

Let me explain. (Tumbling sequence) The sum of two Oxygen atoms are larger than the mass of the one sulfur atoms after you have fused. Also, sulfur smells kind of icky.

(Sitting on stool) This is what we are made of. I am not making this up. (Move to canes) So if oxygen and hydrogen get smaller when they fuse, why wouldn’t the sum of their parts? (Croco spinning) I know it feels good to fall in love with one person but if you lose parts of yourself in the process then why do it?

Are we really that scared of being alone?

(Hollow back) Are we that reluctant to complete ourselves?

I don’t drive because my wife drives. I don’t cook because my husband cooks. I don’t make decisions without asking my partner first. I don’t think unless we both agreed on the thought. Jump to handstand on canes.

Would you at least admit that in many monogamous relationships, you stop working on certain parts of yourself?

One arm sequence.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I think love is beautiful but dependence based on mutual gain smells like a recipe for disaster.

So why fuse with each other when it’s not in our nature to benefit?

(Spinning on cane changing them round) I think, perhaps, we are just not evolved enough for Fusion yet. If we were made of big elements like Uranium or Potassium, it would make sense to fuse, it would require huge inputs of energy but we would then make brand new elements.

As it stands, we are just made of little hydrogen, oxygen, nitrogen and carbon atoms and (press to spinning handstand) perhaps it’s better to look for orbits rather than fusions. Movement rather than stability.

That way we could stretch towards more people.

That way, no one would be left out.

Front flip from canes.

Lights change to a thin corridor.

Are you all still awake? You know most of these books are actually fake. Ha. Make no mistake. There is so much at stake. If you go to that lake. You could walk into a rake. Hahaha.

Starts retrieving blocks.

Yes. They are mostly fake! Some of these books are actually blocks. I guess many theories we believe are later disproven.

Take this book. We were taught it was a book before we were taught what it was made from. But it is abstracted. We use it tell stories to each other but it is cut from trees… from blocks of wood.

Picks up bench for canes.

So the abstraction is in fact the same substance as the material… but our group perception seems to value one and not the other.

Stacking up blocks.

Books are revered while we tear the trees down, rip them apart, turn them into the shapes we want and build our constructed world from.

But the towers we build are made of the elements we deconstruct, and as we weaken their nature, we weaken the surface underneath our own feet… or hands.

Look at audience as if to say “should I do it?”

Press to handstand on the blocks.

Perhaps if we paid a little more attention to the environment that we, so recklessly, consume, we would realize how delicate it all is.

That-at-any-given-moment------ it could all come crashing down.

Pause… transfer


Begins laughing hysterically.


Woooo! Now we are having fun!

Things just got quite serious. I’m so sorry. You are probably thinking;

“Man, I just came here to watch circus and now it feels like all this guy is doing is lecturing me. Mansplaining the world!”

James walks back up to the stage.

Well, at this point in the show I would like to remind anyone who isn’t having a good time that we ARE living in a very liberal society and you are totally welcome to leave.

Lights becomes lower.

because it’s not going to get any easier from here.

I know this can be hard to be the one who shuffles past everyone so let’s all try something. Let’s all stand up. Come on. We have been sitting down for too long. Stretch you legs. The doors are now being opened and on the count of three, let’s all close our eyes except for those wanting to go, then you can quickly sneak out the back door. One, two three.

Lights go out.

While that is happening why don’t we talk about some lighter topics.

Maybe gender inequality. Or better yet, racial inequality. White Privilege. Corona virus… No. God no! Oh, how about climate change.

Lights come up abruptly. James is sitting the prop second rung.

Yes! Let’s talk about climate change!

You can take a seat if you like. If not, that’s cool, do whatever you like. That’s what we normally do!

James begins climbing to the top of the prop.

No. Yes. So… I have been interested climate change for quite a while. It’s been one of my little obsessions for the past 16 years, like most people I guess, I was really concerned when I was a teenager. So I studied it at school and then university. Now I work at the Bundestag in some sustainability campaigns and I’ve tried to approach it from scientific, political, practical and philosophical angles. And today, I would love to report my findings to an open and sympathetic audience. Would you like to hear?

Climate change is NOT a problem! Yey!!!

Wow, you people are hard to please.

Suddenly falls knee flip down from the prop.

Yes. It’s not a problem! Well, it’s not an environmental problem so much as social-economic problem. You see, for sure, the temperature will rise between 2.5 to 4.7 degrees Celsius in the next 50 years causing huge devastation to our planet, wiping out millions of species, catalysing drought, famine and most probably a world war… but it’s okay! The entirely of North Africa will probably become a desert and hundreds of island nations are going to go under water. But it’s all okay, my dears because it is only really the poor who will suffer!

Start setting up the hammock on the prop.

Isn’t that great! No, it’s okay because people in developing countries are always suffering. They are used to it. And even if things get really bad, like in the worst-case scenarios, I still think it’s only going to be our kids who have to deal with the brunt of the disaster.

No. what I am going to do instead of making any meaningful changes to my lifestyle is I am going to make a whole lot of money. That’s why I’m here doing shows for donations.

Getting into the Hammock

No, I’m going to make the mother load of money. I think if I can get in the top 4% of the world’s wealthy, I should be pretty much clear of the carnage. Then I can buy a yacht or something, even if all the sea levels rise... I’ll be okay.

Lays in Hammock.

I’ll buy a mansion on a hill. Then I can just crank up my air conditioning, lower my automated security blinds and take care of what matters most… inner happiness based disproportionate accumulation of more and more material possessions.

Closes eyes with peaceful expression. Expression distorts.

I’m sorry. I know I am talking a lot.

Takes off head set mic and speaks into it like a handheld.

I’ll tell you what though, I’ll give you all the choice. I can end this show in a couple of different ways. I can put on another mask and perform a beautiful, Cirque du Soleil-esk aerial performance where I tell the non-verbal story of a young boy who goes on mystical journey though a wild circus land and meets a …chipmunk and becomes a …peacock… or some shit. OR! I could tell you how I really feel.

So, what’s it going to be? Hands up for beauty. And hands up for truth.

Do you know the song Moya by Godspeedyou Blackemperor?

Lights change.

Music: Moya by Godspeedyou Blackemperor


Choreography ensues. 11 minutes.

Hammock balancing. Swinging on it like a cloud swing. Try to hit the audience but the hammock is holding back arm. Tie it round waist and drop from the prop face first. Take the hammock down and take the bag of rice which reads the word YOU on it.

Placing the bag of YOU on the other end of the straps and winching it up. Throwing it in a circle around the audience’s heads.

Goes back to the prop and sings in foot hang loops. Swinging in one foot hang and walking form one side to the other. Last loop James puts his neck and does spinning neck hangs. He holds it until he falls in a heap on the ground.

He picks up crutches and begins dancing on them. Acrobatic Crutches Section. Involves involuntary manipulation of legs and many tricks ending with twisted shapes. Falls frequently but keeps dancing almost like he is punishing himself.

Takes a moment to get up the last time and pauses to work up the nerve to yell the next thing at the audience.

Do you ever get just a little bit FUCKING DISAPPOINTED that we knew about this problem decades ago and we could have had it solved by now. But our governments just kept letting the big energy companies keep DRILLING AND BURNING AND DUMPING AND DESTROYING!


Runs back to prop and begins swinging on it. Swings to back fly away.

Runs back to prop and does falling crashing choreography finishing with Chinese pole flag.

Drags the hammock and crashes the Prop down towards the audience. It is suspended by ropes and is caught just before it hits the ground.

James looks at the audience. He turns his back and tries to lift the prop back up but he can’t.

Could somebody please help me!?

Pushes prop back up and thanks the people who helped him.

He walks to centre and put the bag of YOU on his back. He slides slowly into middle splits with the bag of YOU on back.

It’s quite funny… well not that last act. That was rather bleak…. But our ability to act for our planet. One little virus and suddenly the emissions from the world plummeted in 6 months. Reductions that was impossible for us to achieve under our own free will. But an immediate personal threat and suddenly we all stop flying, consuming and governments can mobilize billions of euros.

You might remember, I told you before about my daughter. Well now she asks me different questions. “Why do people separate baby cows from their mothers just to kill them? Why are we still using fossil fuels? How hot is it going to be in the future for me.”

And I don’t have answers for all of these things. Well, not answers that I would tell her. All I can give her, all I can hang onto, is hope.

I hang onto hope that we will be better. We will clean the oceans, we will use less, act less selfishly. But I am sick of hope. I want to act. And I want act as one.

You might be sitting there and wondering what it is that can do by yourself to stop climate change after you leave this room... The answer, as Naomi Klein puts it, “is next to nothing.”

That is why I invited you all here tonight. I thought that if we were all together, if we could all look at this tremendous challenge from a different direction, then maybe something of significance could be possible. Perhaps we could all push in the same direction.

I go to a lot of climate rallies and often I leave not really knowing what to do after I leave. Well, if you are listening, I will tell you.

Don’t vote anyone into power that doesn’t specifically advocate for the Green Deal or The Green New deal. Hold our politicians accountable for bringing it into place and don’t tolerate cutting financial corners to save our economies. This deal provides us with new jobs in green industries, an renewed economy and it will reduce inequalities between race, sex and country.

It will cost a lot to make this change. And I believe we have to pay for this transition from a point of solidarity. Yes, I most emphatically believe that it should be funded by cutting tax breaks and levies to big oil and big data who continually avoid paying their fair share. According to the UK Tax Justice Network, there is somewhere between 24 and 36 trillion US dollars hidden in tax havens around the world. It is not the poor who should have to pay to fix the climate, they already are paying for it due to not-so-natural disasters.

But we are not the poor. We might be broke, we may not have very much money but most people sitting in this room have opportunities, healthcare, education and freedom of movement. We are also the privileged.

We have to stand together with the deeply poor and the filthy rich.

We can no longer just stand idly and point fingers at each other to make the change first. We can’t argue because – because our house is on fire. And when you house is on fire, you simply do everything you can to put out.

I have to let go of my problems, my excuses.

We have to let go of this struggle (pause) for being above than one another.... WE have to let go of the difference between YOU and ME.

Believe me, I really did hang on to it for as long as I could.


Music: Little Shadow by the Yeah, Yeah, Yeah’s.

Slowly get to feet and walk side of stage to take a knife. Walk back towards the audience.

Start to winch the bag of YOU above the heads of the audience.

Put knife in teeth and do donkey rolls to the top of the straps.

Plants knife into the bag and rain rice all over the audience.

Welcome to our polyamorous wedding! Till death do us part.

Descend in rolls.

Begin pouring the rice over people’s heads. Get the people to stand. Throw rice at other people and try to get a rice ball fight started.

Take people on stage. Finish by making a big group circle.


You all may have noticed that you didn’t pay anything when you came in here today. It’s not because the show you saw today didn’t cost me anything. And it’s not because I think my work is worthless. Normally to see my show at the theatre you would pay 40€ at the door.

Today I didn’t oblige you to pay.

What I will do is give you the opportunity to give.

All profits from this production are going straight to charity. I have selected the Gold Standard which launches sustainable and humanitarian projects all over the world to both reduce CO2 emissions and help developing communities use clean energy that enriches their lives. There is more information about them outside if you are interested.

If you are generous, (Twenty euros) then we will raise enough to cover costs and we will have done something today to help the environment.

It’s just a small step but we’ve got to do something.

There is a collection table on the way out and we do have an EC machine if you happen to have no cash on you right now.

I want to thank you all for coming today, for risking infection and for showing support for art and for nature.

Thanks so much!


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