SHOWWOMEN is a feminist rewrite: the untold herstory of extraordinary British working-class entertainment from immigrant, queer and activist perspectives.

In this extraordinary short film, live-action stunts by contemporary acts are interwoven with in-depth interviews with retired performers and archival footage from the University of Sheffield’s National Fairground and Circus Archive.

Marisa Carnesky narrates and performs alongside guest stars hair hanger/comedienne Fancy Chance, sword and spoken word artist Livia Kojo Alour, the late sharpshooter Florence Shufflebottom, Romany clairvoyant Sarah Petulengro and former showgirl Bez Cooper.

SHOWWOMEN creates a dreamlike landscape mixing death-defying stunts, strange and emotive acts, and reminiscences of times gone by with a sense of feminist self-determination.

SHOWWOMEN explores the strong connections between women reviving rare circus skills in contemporary circus to women who work in traditional seaside entertainments – uncovering matriarchal traditions and an insight into the unique lives of showwomen. Revealing their drives and their ambitions from a place of female subjectivity, we learn what it takes to perform and be in charge of extraordinary careers.

The live show featured at Latitude Festival 2022 (21st – 24 July) in the theatre and dance tent. It interweaved live action, in depth interviews and archival footage to create a dreamlike landscape mixing death defying stunts, taboo breaking acts, political resistance and secret backstage rituals. It also asked why and how women perform dangerous and taboo acts and explores the legacy of forgotten and marginalised British entertainers.

About this artist

Carnesky Productions is a creative production company headed by artist, showwoman and practitioner-researcher, Marisa Carnesky.

Founded by Creative Director, Marisa Carnesky in 2004, Carnesky Productions is a performance and theatre company responsible for original large and small scale interactive performance works (including Carnesky’s Ghost Train 2004-2014, Carnesky’s Incredible Bleeding Woman 2015 Ongoing and alternative stage school Carnesky’s Finishing School).

Carnesky Productions is interested in the use of spectacle; fairground rides, magic illusions and grand ritual as a means of creating highly accessible provocative work, rooted in popular culture that promotes cultural and political discourses.