Producer Winston Ruddle (above) came from a tough childhood and a place where living his dreams did not seem possible. People were not supportive of his risky decisions to go to other countries to pursue his dreams; to put it simply, the odds were against him.
Now, the man, who faced all obstacles, is bringing the critically acclaimed circus performance “Mother Africa” to Singapore for the first time.
To be held at the Esplanade Theatre from 12 to 15 April, the circus consists of more than 40 artists from Africa, performing acrobatics, dance, beating on musical instruments and even singing beautiful tunes for audiences. Not forgetting, the 100% African joy they put into making the circus a spectacular one.
We caught up with the man himself and got to know more about him, his work and even got ourselves inspired by the cheerful man.
When asked what audiences should look out for in Mother Africa circus, Ruddle proudly and enthusiastically listed a whole bunch of acts before settling down on the answer “the whole show!”
Tell us more about yourself and what made you want to become a professional acrobat.
I became an acrobat in the early 1980s, right after break dancing (which I was doing before I found acrobats) was going out of fashion. I was absolutely in love with performing for people, so changing from a professional breakdancer to an acrobat was quite easy. The stage was also the only place I could fully express myself.
How did you get your role in your first circus performance?
I started off as a tent and stage hand, working in Circus Continental. There used to be this funny clown named Chunky working there, and I used to imitate his acts without his knowledge. One day, he got arrested three hours prior to the show which got the owner panicking! I told the owner I knew all the acts that Chunky performed so he let me replace him after a quick audition. He liked my performance and that’s where my career started.
Cirque Mother Africa highlights
With a difficult childhood, especially having to take care of yourself, what kept you motivated to chase your dreams?
Being on the stage and performing for people was what made me happiest. That motivated me to follow my dreams.
When some of your troupe-mates called you crazy for going to Australia, what made you still so determined to go despite their comments?
I needed to find something new to do with my life. Living in Africa at that time was not easy.
Where did the idea for the show come about?
My aunt asked me what I was going to do when I grew older and can no longer perform. That got me thinking, so I decided to open my own acrobatic school and that’s where it all started!
What is the show about?
It’s something very different, not quite what you’d expect coming from Africa.
Any message to aspiring acrobats like yourself?
Follow your heart, not the money. If you’re true to what you believe in, the money will follow you any way.