By Luke Voogt
Super roller-skating couple Chantelle Fava and Benji Leeks will test Geelong Arts Centre’s camera crew in a crazy live-streamed kids’ show like no other next Saturday.
The Super Show features the husband and wife in a fast-paced 45 minutes of dance and circus tricks, to get kids feeling as fast as The Flash, agile as Cat Woman and strong as The Hulk.
“We try to get kids to jump up with us and get active,” Fava said.
“It’s super important that we keep them engaged and physical comedy is one of the best ways to get kids to laugh – at an adult’s expense.”
Although her husband admitted he could get a little silly slipping and falling across the stage.
“You’ve got to commit,” Leeks laughed.
“And when the adrenalin’s running you sometimes over-commit.”
Their slapstick heroes ‘Super Shan’ and ‘Super Benji’ take kids on comedic quest to stay in tiptop crime-fighting shape through healthy eating and exercise.
Unlike the typically mellow and intimate live-streamed gigs at the centre during COVID-19, this show will feature overhead cameras and multiple angles to capture the fun.
“Geelong Arts Centre are all over it,” Fava said.
“We’ve even got a cute little side camera where it’s like we’re talking to the kids in private. Kids like to know that we know they’re there.
“We hope the technical side will capture the live performance like they’re really there with us, not like they’re watching through a screen.”
Both Fava and Leeks learnt to roller-skate for their first major gigs in the biz.
At 18, Fava went along to a cattle call for a German production of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s roller-skating extravaganza Starlight Express in the early 2000s.
“I had no idea how to roller-skate and speak German,” she said.
“Before I knew it, I was on a plane to Germany two weeks before my 19th birthday.”
Fava completed weeks of intensive training in skating and German dialogue for the play in a purpose-built three-level theatre.
“We weren’t allowed to take our roller-skates off for 10 hours a day,” she said.
At about the same age, Leeks “ran away and joined the circus” in the US for 18 months.
“I had very little circus experience,” he said.
“I was thrown into the trick roller-skating troupe because I was one of the few who could stand in skates.”
The couple met about a decade later when Fava held auditions for her new company Rolling Entertainment.
At the time Leeks was a bit rusty after a six-year break from skating.
“The first thing she saw of me was – you know when it takes you about 10 seconds to fall?” he said.
“She raised one eyebrow and said, ‘what else do you do?’”
But he improved as the audition went on.
“He had all these amazing circus-trick roller-skating skills that I didn’t have and I had all the dance skills he didn’t have,” Fava said.
“So we taught each other moves.”
The group would go onto perform on Australia’s Got Talent, twice, a Hey Hey It’s Saturday reboot and in a sad clown skit for Kitty Flanagan at Melbourne Comedy Festival.
The couple started dating in 2014 and their group, now known as Fresh Creative Entertainment, does everything from flash mobs to workshops.
“If you can think it, we can do it,” Leeks said.
With four sons, aged 11 months to 14 years, and the lack of theatre work, COVID-19 has been tough for the couple.
“So we’re really thankful that Geelong Arts Centre is supporting local artists and doing amazing things to keep us afloat.”
Bereft of their usual shows at caravan parks, outdoor venues and corporate events, they have been busily home-schooling their boys and roller-skating with the double pram and another son on his bike.
“We get a lot of strange looks but we don’t mind,” Fava said.
While the online format is a completely new challenge for the couple, they are thrilled to get onstage again at Geelong Arts Centre from 3pm on August 8.
Leeks, in particular, likes children’s gigs more than corporate or adult shows.
“I get to be silly and be myself,” he said.
More information: geelongartscentre.org.au