Feature Vol. II, No. 1

                                    THE ARTISTRY OF LUKE WILSON

                                         by Urs Jaeckle and Karen Gersch

Luke is at center

Luke Wilson, one of Europe’s foremost jugglers and magicians, passed away on October 3, 2012, just shy of his 36th birthday.  He had been diagnosed with cancer in June and underwent aggressive treatment that proved unsuccesful. Yet the last two weeks of his life were spent directing a full scale production at the Krystallpalast in Leipzig, Germany.  It was a true testament to his dedication and valor.

Luke was raised in Portsmouth on the coast of England where, as a child, his playground was the nearby King’s Theatre, an elegant Edwardian playhouse built in 1907.  On its stage in 1974 – two years before Luke was born – director Ken Russell filmed the rock opera “Tommy”.   (Its famous “Pinball Wizard” sequence featured Elton John and The Who.)

The 1600-seat theatre with its Italian Renaissance décor: handpainted domed ceiling, red velvet drapes and cushioned seats, curved balcony and tiers of ornately sculpted box seats – served as early inspiration and useful research.  His sister Fran recalled that young Luke attended every show that came through its portals.

Growing up in this historic and professionally-focused environment motivated Luke to dream big.  A beloved uncle first taught him sleight of hand, which he took to naturally.  He was performing magic shows by the age of eleven, began juggling at fourteen.

His first formal training was at London’s Circus Space and subsequently, the French state circus school in Chalons-en-Champagne.  Luke’s classmate and juggling partner in London was Ilka Licht.  The two relocated to Germany and formed a duo called “LukaLuka”, which won the prestigious Moulin Rouge award at the Cirque de Demain Festival in Paris in 2003.

Other European appearances included renowned theatres such as Roncalli’s Apollo Varieté, GOP Varieté and Krystallpalast Varieté, as well as The Box in New York City and Daigogai Festival in Japan.

After ten years of touring, “LukaLuka” dissolved, and Luke began pursuing his solo performing career.  Soon he also became one of Europe’s most sought-after teachers, travelling between circus schools in Sweden, Holland and England.  His broad knowledge of circus history, his attention to detail, as well as his constant curiosity and high technical skills in both juggling and magic, made him an excellent trainer, director and invaluable consultant for developing circus acts.

Luke’s own work was stylistically contemporary – a modernist humor and sharp sense of satire especially pervaded his magic.  Yet his superlative technique and lyrical movements spoke of a classical training.   His acts were uniquely artistic, whether manipulating a teabag and teacup while discoursing on British habits or his wildly poetic choreography with three to six clubs, set to the minimalist music of Wim Merten and Moby.

For the past five years, Luke had been collaborating with Petra Lange, a German aerialist and acrobat.  They worked in circuses, schools and varieté theatres in New York and abroad.  At the onset of his illness, they were planning a life together, having rented an apartment in Cologne.

Luke was a perpetual writer and active blogger; his essays can still be read on http:// circusgeeks.wordpress.com.  When taken ill, he was booked for most of 2013 with many new projects planned that excited him.   Fittingly, the memorial service following his funeral on October 17th was held at his revered King’s Theatre in Portsmouth.

Mortale: A ZirkusmrchenInternational Variey Show

“Mortale”, the show that Luke directed in his final days, ran successfully at Krystallpalast for two months.  The opening night brought him a standing ovation.  Throughout his life, his artistry often took audience’s breath away.  So now does his absence, deeply felt by family, colleagues, students and friends.


Karen Gersch's portrait of Luke Wilson