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Angel finds heaven in Tyneside theatre.

Byline: By David Whetstone

She may look like an angel but her handshake is the clue that there's more to this hanging around than simply strapping on a pair of celestial wings.

"Hi," says Chantal Daly as I nurse my knuckles. The girl from Donegal, all-Ireland judo champion from the ages of 10 to 12, is cast as the angelic circus performer in Northern Stage's production of Wings Of Desire.

It's no job for the physically frail but Chantal is as powerful as she is persuasive. She describes herself as an aerial dancer - but dancing, stilt-walking, abseiling and something called contact dance will all be on her CV. If you dropped her, she might bounce.

She convinced director Alan Lyddiard that she was right for the Newcastle Playhouse job - even though she is not, strictly speaking, a trapeze artist like the character in Wim Wenders' famous art-house film, of which this is the first stage adaptation. "I said I could do this thing with a hoop," she recalls, sitting in front of the soaring staircase of a set on which Lyddiard's production will unfold.

"There are a lot of references to the moon in Wings Of Desire and there's a movement on the hoop called man-in-the-moon."

Once demonstrated, the director was smitten. She got the job and so the troubled angel in the stage show will fall in love with an aerial dancer with an Irish accent.

Although she is now based in London, 28-year-old Chantal is looking forward to revisiting some old haunts while on Tyneside.

After doing a two-year dance foundation course in Dublin, she was advised to move to England to further her career. "I auditioned for the dance HND course at Newcastle College, run in conjunction with Dance City, and got accepted. I loved my time in Newcastle although I haven't really had time to get out and about yet because I've been too busy rehearsing. There are four aerial scenes in Wings Of Desire and also two or three major speaking scenes so it will be a challenge."

Chantal went to the London School of Contemporary Dance after Newcastle and also took courses at Circus Space where they teach skills like stilt walking and the trapeze. She first worked for a company called Scarabeus Theatre and did some stilt walking at the Millennium Dome. Scarabeus introduced her to abseiling. "At first I was scared of heights but you learn to trust your equipment. Now I love it."

Chantal met her husband in Newcastle, at the old Riverside club on Melbourne Street. Jym Daly is the drummer in an Irish band called Loop Guru. Their eyes met across the dancing heads and now they run a dance and physical theatre company in Ireland called Fidget Feet.

"Our aim is to become the biggest thing since Riverdance," smiles Chantal.

The couple were married last November in Donegal and, as chance would have it, Chantal wore a pair of wings. Jym, who has also provided some of the music for Wings Of Desire, apparently looked splendid in a silver suit. The local paper had a field day.

So now Chantal is in a kind of heaven. "I think it's every aerialist's dream to play the trapeze artist in Wings Of Desire," she says. "And what makes it really nice is that all the actors at Northern Stage have been so supportive."

Chantal hopes to return to the North-East in future to do some work at Dance City. In the meantime, Wings Of Desire runs until September 19 at Newcastle Playhouse. Tel, (0191) 230-5151 for tickets.
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:The Journal (Newcastle, England)
Date:Sep 10, 2003
Words:597
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