Nikki Kennett is a former gymnast and acrobat who has transformed herself into a Snow Queen and a Summertime Mermaid performing inside a living globe, and through doing so has built an exciting business that has amazed adults and children – intrigued?
Read on for the full 5 Minutes With interview.
Hi Nikki, you started out as an acrobat in contemporary circus – how did that come about? How long had you been training to get a role like that?
I was a very keen gymnast since being a young child, I used to compete nationally and came fourth in the British Championships for tumbling. After finishing my A-Levels I took a gap year, moved to Brighton, met some performers by chance and travelled to Spain with them for a few months learning other circus skills and performing at fiestas and busking as I went.
That was the nail in the coffin of me returning to do my degree. I realised I could make a life for myself doing what I already loved. I am the cliche that ran away and joined the circus. However not the traditional big top kind. Contemporary circus is the modern equivalent, we perform in theatres, arts events and festivals as well as the corporate world too.
A nasty injury meant a change of course and something less physically demanding, how did you come up with the idea of The Show Globe?
Well they do say necessity is the mother of all invention an that’s the case for me creating The Show Globe.
I had a really bad landing from a somersault whilst performing in Adelaide as part of their Fringe Arts Festival, mid show in front of a big audience. I remember hearing the big collective intake of breath! Pride and adrenaline made me finish the act but I’d completely destroyed the ligaments and the tendon that hold your ankle in place, as well as fractured it.
I didn’t let the hospital put me in a cast and I finished the remaining 5 weeks of the Oz tour in a metal re-enforced ankle brace. Its taken 3 surgeries over several years to get close to fixing the damage I did, some nerves are still shot. My surgeon was also a professor and told me he uses my MRI scans to teach his students as the worst case he’d ever seen. They make us tough in the circus. That or stupid. Not sure which!
I had a few years off performing during the surgeries and extended healing times. It was hard, physically, emotionally and of course financially, we’re all freelance self-employed workers as circus artists. As another Christmas approached (which is a peak earning time for performers) I racked my brains for a way to create an act that I could physically managed. I needed a way to be able to rest my ankle mid performance without anyone noticing. At that point I’d done only 2 of the 3 surgeries and the nerve damage meant over 10 minutes of standing was painful. That’s where the concept of The Show Globe began.
I dreamed up a structure that I could be inside that would support me when I needed it. That I could control and make move around through events. I wanted it to be beautiful and spectacular, so unique it would stop people in their tracks. A huge moving interactive Living Snow Globe with me as the Snow Queen inside. It’s completely unique, the only one of its kind in the world.
As well as the winter Living Show Globe, you spend your summertime as a Mermaid! Tell us about that!
Yes I do! Which is funny as I’m quite the tom boy at heart. I’ve had to spend hours being taught how to create the make up effects by the pro make up artist, Martine Jones!
I soon realised of course that snow globes by nature, have a multitude of scenes in them. By chance I’d created the perfect concept that could have an endless array of magical themed interiors. My husband Tim, whom I now run The Show Globe with came up with the concept for the Sea Sphere. The whole interior changes to a detailed nautical backdrop with a mermaid character inside.
The interactive effects all change too. There is a big button on the front for the public to press, for the Living Snow Globe version it triggers the snowfall inside, with the Sea Sphere it sends a huge plume of bubbles into the public. Kids go made for that!
There is a real WOW factor with your costumes and globes – how do people react when they first see you?
Thank you for noticing, that’s what we really strive for so that makes me happy! I want each version to look completely magical, to really transport the public to that childhood feeling of enchantment in the unexplained.
The world is a bit fierce at the moment, we all need a little bit of something unexplained and beautiful to transport us for a moment. We get so little of that as adults. I work with really talented costumiers and designers to help do this. The reactions from people just blow me away, I get to see the wonder on their faces and it’s just a brilliant feeling for me.
I can imagine that there are some very jealous children (and adults!), when they see you as a snow queen or mermaid?
The reactions from children are just the most special thing for me. Of course I love the fact that adults really get swept away with it, I hadn’t anticipated how much it would appeal to adults and that is fantastic.
The absolute wonder and joy on the children faces is truly beautiful though. So many have such strong reactions, particularly with the Sea Sphere, really believing the mermaid is real (obviously she is!). They crowd around it reaching up to touch hands with the mermaid through the globe, absolute amazement on their faces. They follow it along making me feel like the Pied Piper! We’ve heard quite a few adults wishing it was their job, yes!
How is something like The Show Globe made? It must be quite a challenge to manufacture!
Obviously if I told you exactly how it worked I’d have to kill you (and sue you, we’ve had the design legally protected!) It was and is a challenge. After coming up with the concept, I figured out how I wanted it to work, how it would move, what it was to look like and what it needed to be able to do tech wise and I took that to a very talented theatrical prop maker, Steve Taylor, to make sense of for me.
Lots of credit goes to him for building the first version of it! From there I played with it and then changed various elements myself. We now have a cad design with another company who will be making us a version we can pack into suitcases for long haul flights as we keep getting asked to perform in the Middle East.
What is the most fun part of your job/business?
Travelling with my husband and sharing the adventures with him is great. He works as the technician for the act and then stewards as I perform to help guide me safely through the crowds. He hears all the comments and reactions from the public that I can’t because sound effects and shares them with me afterwards which is awesome.
The most fun thing though is seeing a crazy idea actually working! Seeing it get such a massive reaction from the audiences is amazing. It took 2 years of struggles to create, tweak and get right, endless investment. The first time I performed the Living Snow Globe at a Christmas event in Harlow, a child immediately ran over and pressed the button when the snow effect went off inside the globe, her face was such a picture of joy and amazement that I actually welled up and then quickly had to control myself so I didn’t mess up all my make up! It was that realisation that it was all going to be worth it, I’d cracked something really special.
What sort of events/functions etc do you normally perform at?
All sorts – in the winter it tends to be Christmas light switch on’s, Christmas parties, shopping centres, corporate events and winter wonderland themed weddings. The summer months are a mixture of Regattas, Tall Ships events, arts festivals, music festivals, street theatre events. We perform a lot over in mainland Europe in the summer months.
What have you got planned for the future?
We’ve got 2 new interiors launching in March. One will be an enchanted illuminated garden with a flower nymph character, lots of magic and interactive mischievous tricks, Ring of Posies. The second will be a living floral piece but especially for weddings, Love Posies. It will tell the couples story animating it with clips of their voices, poems and stories.
How can people get in touch with you and book The Show Globe/Sea Sphere?
We have a beautiful Instagram page as we’re such a visual act, @theshowglobe they can follow if they’d like to see our adventures pictorially. We’re active on Facebook & just getting into Twitter too, with the same handle. They can contact me for bookings via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or through our website www.showglobe.co.uk.
Thanks Nikki, a really interesting interview and concept.