A person talking into a mocrophone, with brown curly hair, a red hat, and a blue and white checked suit
Marisa Carnesky

Behind The Scenes: Carnesky’s Showwomxn Sideshow Spectacular

Outdoor, Circus, LGBTQIA+, Family, Interviews, Circus, Outdoor

Meet Brighton’s Olivier Award-winning performance maker, Marisa Carnesky. Her new show for Brighton Festival 2024, Carnesky’s Showwomxn Sideshow Spectacular, reimagines British seaside variety performance through a feminist queer lens. Take a peek behind the curtain... 

Marisa Carnesky has been making critically acclaimed large scale and subversive shows for over 30 years. She founded the creative production company Carnesky Productions in 2004, and works with extraordinary circus and radical performance artists to create accessible and provocative work. 

Carnesky’s Showwomxn Sideshow Spectacular (25-26 May) is based on her research at the National Fairground and Circus Archive and features a cast of 33 female and non-binary aerialists, wrestlers, variety dancers, contemporary clowns and contortionists who will transform Elder Place (behind London Road) into a large-scale, outdoor circus spectacular. 

Marisa tells us more about the story behind the spectacle...

What inspired you to create Carnesky’s Showwomxn Sideshow Spectacular?

I was a fellow at the National Circus and Fairground Archive where I got this idea to make a show about Showwomen, who are not showgirls. We run the show, we are in charge of our own stage.

This show brings a huge cast of some of the most exciting women in contemporary performance in the UK today and connects their performances to the heritage of lesser-known women in British variety history. This is herstory.

Tell us more about the significance of the word, Showwomxn.

Whilst ‘Showmen’ and ‘Showgirls’ are still widely used in language, the term ‘Showwomen’ is not. [Carnesky Productions] think that the showgirl has grown up, has her own autonomy and is in charge. We create visions of spectacular matriarchal utopias! 

We choose to spell the word Showwomxn with an X to represent and include the truly diverse nature of our cast which includes all kinds of women and non-binary people.

Why is it special for you to bring your spectacular to Brighton?

Brighton is one of the most significant seaside towns in the UK with a rich performance culture. My research into British seaside heritage, and passion for discovering untold stories about women performers, is embedded in the Brighton landscape.

Through the eclectic vision of the Brighton Festival programme, we bring a show that combines the heritage and tradition of British seaside entertainment with the most cutting-edge, ground-breaking and diverse cast: reframing the British seaside through a 2024 Brighton lens.

What do you want people to take away from the experience?

The show will change the way people think about women in show business - forever!  

The most marvellous show in town

Step inside...