Recruiting global talent adds sparkle to cabaret performance

Charlie Cush

Robert Walters are proud to partner with Brisbane Festival for a second year in 2019. We interview Scott Maidment the mastermind behind Blanc de Blanc Encore. In this interview, we ask Scott how talent selection is key to outstanding performance.

For Blanc de Blanc Encore, you’ve unearthed some extraordinary talent from around the world. Likewise, at Robert Walters, we help our clients to search for, and select, a blend of local and international talent. How do you approach the selection process?

In HR terms, it’s about finding people who are a good “cultural fit”. I’m looking for performers who fit into the world of Blanc de Blanc Encore – they have that look and feel. They have a sophisticated edge but are maybe a little bit crazy. They are pretty athletic with a playful twinkle in their eye – that’s the x-factor.

In Blanc de Blanc Encore, we have performers from Berlin, LA, Toronto, Toulouse and Miami – none of them have met before, but what drives them is to create a whole ‘world’ of a show.

I talk a lot about what the look and the feel of the show is, rather than particular acts or numbers. Then the performers themselves feed a lot into the ‘world’, and into the show itself. I am then more like a chef – once I have all the ingredients from the talented performers, it’s just about finding the right proportions and mixing it all together with the right amount of sizzle!

At Robert Walters, we hire all kinds of roles – some which are client facing and some who play a key role in the support functions – but all contribute something unique to an organisation. Tell us about some of the behind-the-scenes roles at Blanc de Blanc.

Alison Neville is our Head of Production – she and I meet regularly to talk through and plan all the things that happen behind the scenes. There are a lot of effects that happen and are created in Encore – filling the tent with bubbles, confetti, half a tonne of feathers. The behind the scenes - support staff like any organisation play a key role in the success of the show coming to life.

Being circus, there are also a lot of dangerous feats. It might seem like mayhem on stage but backstage it’s all about precision. From the sounds, the lighting, all the aerial work – all that sort of thing has to be super, technically precise.

We also have what we call the ASM – Assistant Stage Manager – who does the laundry, washes the sweaty costumes, sucks up the confetti after each show etc. Their role is still critical to the show’s success every night. People always ask, “What’s the best job in the circus?” and we say, “Any job, it’s the circus!

Preparation is key for our candidates before they interview for their next big role. Do you have any tips for handling jitters for your performers before they step on to the main stage?

Preparation is everything – it is all about focus before the show. Our performers really focus their whole day upon the four hours of the show. They get in about two hours before the show call, perform, then warm down after the show.

Our performers spend a lot of time focusing their energies at that time of the day. Unlike most people, who are winding down for the day, our performers are winding up. They have spent the ‘regular’ part of the day going to the gym, eating well and looking after their bodies. Preparation is so vital– it looks effortless on stage but, let me tell you, there’s a lot of effort behind it.

Any other lessons you have learned about performing under pressure? 

Whoever your audience is, they don’t know what you’ve prepared. So, if something does go wrong, your audience won’t know any better. The key is to remain in control the whole time. So don’t feel overwhelmed, breathe through it, and realise you are in the spotlight and in control.

Having said all that, with Blanc de Blanc, things hardly ever go wrong (touch wood). We did 70-something performances at the Sydney Opera House recently, and it was strangely consistent. Even though we involved the audience in most things, the audience tended to react almost exactly the same every night – there really isn’t much left to chance. It may look like anarchy, but it’s clockwork, planned anarchy.

It sounds like you have high quality control standards. How does your talent selection contribute to that?

Because we work with a cast of international people, we’re working with the best people in the world and performers who are at the top of their game. We have a reputation, and this attracts a lot of performers to want to come and work with us. Internationally, we’re fortunate to be very well regarded as a company.

 

About Brisbane Festival

Robert Walters is a proud sponsor of Brisbane Festival which runs 6 – 28 September.

Scott Maidment is the Founding Director of Strut & Fret Production House, which is producing Blanc de Blanc Encore at Brisbane Festival.