Sorcha Ra is an artist turned producer with over 20 years experience in the events market and her company Sorcha Productions is the go-to supplier for circus entertainment in the industry.
Sorcha has worked on large-scale outdoor spectaculars as well as theatre, cabaret and street arts, whilst working extensively in the commercial sector. She truly understands how live performance can transform an event to give guests a rich and memorable experience. We caught up with her to find out more about how she entertains thousands of guests at various events including some of the stand out Christmas parties at venues across London.
Over the past 20 years Sorcha has provided entertainment at over 3000 events. She has entertained at some of the most prestigious events in the calendar, with locations including the Brit Awards, the House of Commons and Kensington Palace.
What is your background? Did you always want to be in entertainment?
Originally I trained in finance and worked in the City, but I always loved performing arts. So I’d work for a while, save up, and then take time off to focus on training, rehearsing, and performing. At the start, I mostly performed at music and outdoor arts festivals. Then the corporate entertainment industry took off, and I was able to give up the day job and become a full-time entertainer.
You’ve worked all over the world. What are your highlights?
Always so hard to choose, as taking an act or doing full show production abroad is both exciting and challenging. As an artist, I spent a month performing in the British Pavilion at the World Expo, Shanghai, 2010. Amazing to be involved with such a huge international event. Then in 2016 and 2017, I took my full Cirque Shanghai show to the UAE. These shows were a part of the Chinese New Year celebrations in Abu Dhabi and the Shopping Festival in Dubai. My cast included artists from both from the UK and Mongolia. It showed me how with proper planning and the right performers there’s no difference where in the world the event is.
You were involved in the infamous Snake Pit venue in the Shangri La field at Glastonbury, what was that experience like?
The Snake Pit was one of the most original immersive venues in the UK, where conventional limitations had been removed. It was exciting to be part of a team that was taking a no-holds-barred approach and was willing to take risks and push boundaries. As the cabaret producer, I had a lot of creative freedom to programme weird and risqué acts.
When did you set up Sorcha Productions?
I set up Sorcha Productions in 2009 to produce the annual Cirque show for the Bloomsbury Big Top. It was the year I crossed over from being a performer to a producer. I decided to keep my name in the title as it’s pretty unique within the events industry.
What made you specialise in circus?
I originally started performing as a fire artist and then in 2003 joined brightFX, a pyro circus company. We were a mixture of acrobats, aerialists, fire performers, and pyrotechnicians who created big spectacular shows for live events. This introduced me to the wonderful world of circus, and as I’ve always loved the more physical side of performance — it was a natural fit.
You’ve created theatrical shows for a range of corporate events, private events and live events. Do you have a preference?
My favourite events are gala dinners and award ceremonies. These events are all about celebrating excellence and achievement, so bringing in highly skilled circus acts as part of the evening reflects this perfectly. I really enjoy it when my brief calls for the entertainment to be an integral part of the whole event, not just a stage show during dinner or before the awards.
How do you discover new talent?
I’m lucky that I have created a great network from being a performer for the last 21 years. This means I’ve either already worked with the artists and know their acts or I can get personal recommendations for up and coming talent. Though I still go out and see as much cabaret as possible, and I’m maintaining an active presence in the outdoor art scene.
You’ve been providing the acts for the Awesome Events Christmas Big Top for the last 10 years. How do you get new ideas for the shows to keep them fresh?
I try and bring something new to each show, a new prop or act that hasn’t been seen before. Sometimes the show has the same theme, like with Cirque Shanghai, which we did in both 2014 and 2017. The second season coincided with a scouting trip to Mongolia, so I took the opportunity to have the costumes made out there and also brought back some original props. This meant the second show had a different look and feel.
Where do you find inspiration?
When I’m given the title of the show and have to create around it, inspiration usually comes from other shows I’ve created or acts I’ve seen. I spend a lot of time thinking about the musical journey of the show, which influences the order of the acts, the props, and the skills involved.
The costumes for your entertainment acts are magical. Can you tell us about the design process?
I have an amazingly talented costume designer Andie Scott who creates most of my costumes. Usually, we get together to discuss the show and the exact look and feel I want to bring. She then creates a mood board and initial designs. We’ve worked together for 10 years, so she understands what I’m looking for. She specialises in creating costumes for circus performers, so she’s able to make them look fabulous while still allowing my artists to be able to perform and feel good in them. In the corporate entertainment industry, she works exclusively for Sorcha Productions.
How does entertainment help bring an event to life?
When deciding which acts to use at an event, I give careful consideration to what the event is for and who will be attending. The entertainment needs to reflect the theme and enhance the atmosphere.
What venues are the most challenging to organise shows in?
The most challenging are the ones with limited light or sound faculties or bad sightlines. Long narrow rooms with no staging can be a nightmare. However, limitations also demand greater creativity, which means coming up with new and innovative solutions.
What’s the secret to keeping audiences hooked during an immersive event?
In my opinion, it’s knowing the audience and pacing the event. Immersive is something that has to be carefully handled as different audiences will want various amounts of interaction. If you push someone too far and out of their comfort zones, they won’t want to participate. So knowing how much to involve the guests is paramount. Also how to keep it moving so no one is bored or overexposed to an act or activity.
You work with so many different entertainers but do you have a favourite performance?
I have favourite artists and groups that I work with regularly. My best productions come out of using artists who I know, their skills and acts, and who know my style. I also have my own in-house dancers and a choreographer, which allows me to create bespoke performances easily.
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