Crank it up with Carl Polke

Carl Polke first joined the Circus Oz family in the 90s as a musician and he’s back as the musical director for Cranked Up, which opens next week. And click here to be in the running for a double pass to the show on Saturday 22 June.

When he’s not seeing the world with the circus, he’s a freelance (and award winning) composer and sound director who’s worked with independent theatre companies and Legs on the Wall, Australian Theatre for Young People, Urban Theatre Projects and Griffin Theatre. He also continues to work with contemporary circus companies including Circus Monoxide, Circa and The Flying Fruit Fly Circus.

He says he loves being in Circus Oz because he is “an integral part of a creative blizzard”, offers a recipe for chilli and parmesan popcorn and has a chat with Anne-Marie Peard (who has put pop corn, red chilli and parmesan on her shopping list).

Carl Polke, Circus Oz
Carl Polke, Circus Oz

What do you do in Cranked up?
Musical Director, performer, principal lead electrical guitarist.

What was the first trick you learnt?
Playing my saxophone, whilst riding my skateboard. Or maybe it was the other way around.

What skill do you wish you had?
A better grasp of quantum mechanics.

When did you join Circus Oz?
First time, 1993–98. This time, 2009–?

What do you love about Circus Oz?
Being an integral part of a creative blizzard.

What other jobs have you had?
From various crappy labouring jobs when I was a student (including my very first job, making a circus tent – who woulda thought!) to theatrical sound design and composition (award-winning I might add). I a gig at ABC Radio Master Control for a little while once, managed to knock Radio National off air a couple of times, but hey, the world’s still turning so, you know…

Do you remember your first trip to the circus?
‘Twas when I was but a wee child, a traditional circus. It smelt funny.

What's your favourite post-show snack?
Jack Daniels, straight up with a little ice.

Who do you love seeing in the audience?
People. Of any variety. They all look the same when they laugh.

Where and what did you study?
Music/composition at La Trobe, way back in the 80s. Education was free back then.

What was your first show as a performer?

How many suitcases do you tour with?
One, and not a real big one either!

When you're touring, what can't you leave home without?
One of those small stove-top espresso makers. Which, by the way, also works on top of an iron set to ‘cotton’.

Where's your favourite place to tour to?
South America. You can live a whole life everyday in that place.

What’s your favourite pop corn flavour?
Homemade Chilli Parmesan. Throw a roughly chopped hot red chilli into the pot after the popcorn, but before it starts to pop (so the chilli doesn’t get burnt). Then grate parmesan over the top. Yum.

How many hot doughnuts can you eat in one sitting?
Well, it depends on how long I’m sitting for!

If you couldn’t be in the circus, what would you do?
Rock star.

Where do you like to hang out in Melbourne?
By the sea and anywhere there’s good coffee. Although, we travel so much I kinda like just hanging out at home when I can.

If you could teach Julia Gillard and Tony Abbott a circus trick, what would it be?
Well, they’ve got clowning under control, likewise with balancing acts, juggling, knife-throwing, and backflipping acrobatics, so… I would suggest juggling on a tall unicycle balanced on an elephant being shot out of a cannon. That should keep them busy enough for the rest of us to get on with it.

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