Sunday, 5 May 2013

My new book, Running Away with the Circus (Or, "Now is the Winter of our Missing Tent") is now available to order from, although it may be a few weeks before it becomes available through other outlets such as Amazon.

Running Away with the Circus began life as letters home to friends and colleagues during my three months with the American Universal Circus on tour in Taiwan, one of the most truly bizarre experiences of my life (so far). I knew that I wanted to turn them into a book when my friend, television producer Norman Campbell threatened (jokingly) to bootleg them and publish them under his own name.
In real life, I am a composer-lyricist for the musical theatre. My night-time day job has usually involved working backstage in various London West End theatres. However, on one occasion in 1997, I found myself facing nursing a broken heart, unemployment and - worse yet - taking on a soul destroying job to make ends meet. Then an ad appeared in The Stage for circus workers. I jumped at it. A team of psychiatrists in the employ of my family then jumped on me. But I went anyway.
Nothing could have prepared me for this experience. (Not that any attempt was made to prepare me - I was fed a shocking litany of disinformation: nobody would even tell me what sort of clothes to bring.) I found myself in a foreign country with no understanding of the language or culture, doing a job that was deeply embroiled in local politics.
The impresario, Mr. Hsu Po-yun, who was presenting the circus, was deeply connected with the ruling Nationalist party, who for the first time in history were losing their grip on power. As a result, we were being refused routine permits, while facing down police corruption and being greeted by animal rights protesters (whom we learned had more than a few valid points).Our troubles really began when, two weeks into our trip, we were forced to take down our tent because of an approaching typhoon. The cultural misunderstandings began to pile up when we asked for a six-ton forklift and were given a four-ton and a two-ton instead.
But the show went on, and I had a chance, in between guarding tigers and putting up tents, to explore some of the little-known tourist sites of Taiwan, including the Pescadores Islands, Sun-moon Lake and the spectacular Alishan Forest Railway. We visited Taipei, Taichung, Touliu, Kaohsiung and Chia-Yi before it became clear that the reason why we were being paid late was not really because the cashier didn't get to the bank on time. After the promoters threatened to make one of our staff "disappear" if he didn't stop demanding his pay, we left in a very big hurry.
ISBN 9780991695713