Crank it up with Laurel Frank

It’s not long until Circus Oz put the big top up in Birrarung Marr for their annual home-town season.

Last year’s show was From the Ground Up. It travelled Australia, visited the Northern Hermisphere and is returning as Cranked Up. Some of last year’s favourite acts are still there, but expect a few new twists and some new amazing performers.

One thing that hasn’t changed at Circus Oz since it was founded in 1978 is costume designs by Laurel Frank.

Laurel is one of the founding members of the company and has been resident costume designer since and has a quick chat with Anne-Marie Peard about being in the circus for 35 years and how a very long shirt can make all the difference.

Laurel Frank, Circus Oz 2013
Laurel Frank, Circus Oz 2013

She has a quick chat with Anne-Marie Peard and you can win a double pass to the show on Friday 26 June.

What three words best describe your show?
Tough, vibrant, machine-washable (that’s just the fabrics).

What do you love most about this show?
The generosity, humour and skill of the performers.

What is one of your favourite shows you’ve seen at Circus Oz?
Paris Theatre  (Sydney) in the 1980’s with the hilarious upside down drumming.

What do you love about working with Circus Oz?
The co-operation it takes to generate shows makes it an involving and rewarding work environment.

What’s been the biggest challenge you’ve faced preparing for this show?
Not having enough time to reflect on proposed designs – it’s always a crazy rush to opening night.

What was your reaction when you discovered the concept for the show?
I have “done” work wear a million times and used overalls when we couldn’t
afford anything else! Once I researched contemporary work wear I got excited about all the interestingly panelled workpants that have been developed for specialised trade tools and work processes and the design took off from there.

Who would you love to see in the audience one night?
Jean-Paul Gaultier (the French fashion designer) has already been.

Is there anyone you don’t want to see in the audience?
Tony Abbott.

When did you know you wanted to be in the circus?
When I first shone a light on some acrobats in my first job as lighting designer with the company.

Apart from this one, what was the last circus show you worked on?
As a founding member, I have worked on most of them over the company’s history so I still get excited about the evolution and occasional revolution in the show.

Do you believe in any circus superstitions? What are they?
If someone has any, I try and avoid the wrong colour, word or whatever it is for them, but me personally, no.

What’s some great circus advice you’ve used? Who was it from?
When I asked Chinese trainer Lu Guong Rong many years ago how did the Chinese pole performers look so neat and keep their shirts tucked in, he said, “They have very long shirts”. I like that kind of very direct and practical advice, you can run a mile with it.

What circus act do you really want to play one day?
I have always dreamt of accomplishing a tumbling run ending with a layout front somersault, but sadly, it’s not going to happen.

You have one trip in the TARDIS; what circus act do you see? Why?
I would like to land backstage at Barnum and Bailey about 1907 to see May Wirth do her bareback horse-riding act and be able to check how the costumes were made

Which industry person has taught you the most? What?
Anyone who understands theatre craft and can make a show “true” for an audience is inspiring. Neil Armfield for instance.

What’s your favourite cake?
Flourless orange and almond.

Do you read your reviews?

Cranked Up
Melbourne: 19 June – 14 July
Then it heads to Perth, Geraldton, Port Lincoln, Port Pirie, Whyalla, Norlunga, Renmark and Mount Gambier.
Details here.

Anne-Marie Peard

Anne-Marie spent many years working with amazing artists at arts festivals all over Australia. She's been a freelance arts writer for the last 10 years and teaches journalism at Monash University.

Anne-Marie Peard

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