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Ever considered running away with the circus? This is the reality

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Adele Lamb, 35, is a stage manager at Cirque du Soleil. She lives in London, but travels around the world with the company

My alarm goes off…

At 9am, usually. For breakfast, I eat porridge and berries. Most days, I start work at 1.45pm so in the morning I try to go to the gym, or I’ll Skype my family and friends. At Cirque we work six days a week.

I’m responsible for…

The stage management of Cirque du Soleil’s shows. I manage around 45 performance artists. This involves coordinating the show’s line-up each night and looking after our performers’ health. You need to be good at communicating, reading people and getting on with them. We’re away from our families so we are each other’s family.

I got the job…

By having support early on. I was very lucky to have a great drama teacher at school, who encouraged me to go into the industry. My first job was cover for an assistant stage manager on Saturday Night Theatre in the West End. I went on to work as an assistant stage manager on shows like Rock Of Ages, The Book Of Mormon and Les Misérables. Cirque was a challenge because suddenly you’re responsible for people flying through the air. There are moments you ask yourself, ‘Can I do this?’, but you just push on through. 

Similar to what the Stylist office turns up to work in

My typical day…

Starts with me arriving at our venue, the grand chapiteau, which is what we call our big top circus tents. It takes eight days to set up, two days to tear down and fits in 78 trucks. It’s like a village, with a main house, artistic tent, offices and laundry. We can be in one city anywhere from six weeks to three months.

We start by doing some training and practice on stage with the artists to work through things from their performances. We have to figure out how the show is going to work on a daily basis because it’s not like a West End show where you have understudies – sometimes we have to alter an act or remove it altogether if they can’t perform. We are in conversation throughout the day with doctors and physios (who check the artists to make sure they’re fit to perform), the head coach and the artistic director. We come together two hours before the show to confirm the version for the day.

We have a kitchen on site so we can pop there for food. We have cooks from all around the world so the menu is really varied. At the moment, the show starts at 8pm.

During this time, I coordinate the lighting, sound, musicians and artists. When we finish depends on where we are. Right now in Paris we’ll finish around 10.30pm.

My most memorable work moment…

Was getting the job at Cirque. I’d wanted to work there since leaving university 10 years ago. 

Adele oversees everything that happens onstage

The worst part of my job…

Is missing out on normal life – one of my friends is getting married and I can’t go to the wedding.

The best part of my job…

Is getting to see new places and meeting lots of different people. You see the world in a different way.

After work…

I’ll watch a film or TV show. I like documentaries by David Attenborough, Stacey Dooley and Reggie Yates. I enjoy going out and seeing the area we’re staying in, too. I aim to get to sleep around two hours after I arrive home.

My Plan B: Photo journalist

I’d still want to do something where I could travel, meet different people and experience different cultures. I always try to properly explore the country that we’re staying in, not just the touristy stuff – and I take lots of pictures. So, maybe photo journalism. 

Cirque du Soleil’s TOTEM is on at the Royal Albert Hall until 26 February

Photography: Holly Mcglynn

Words: Emily Sargent

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