Circus Oz is turning 35 this year, and for its new travelling show, Cranked Up, the company takes last year’s show (From the Ground Up) and, well, cranks it up. We speak to Mark Sheppard, the newest member of the ensemble cast, who will be playing the role of MC. It's his first foray into circus – previously he'd been touring a one-man show called Chasing the Lollyman.
Mark, can you tell us about your time at Blakflip, Circus Oz’s Indigenous program, and how you got started there?
I originally started with Josh Bond, who is an artistic associate of Circus Oz, and I met him at a national Indigenous theatre forum in Cairns. He invited me to come to Melbourne in January last year where cast members Hazel Bock and Shane Witt guided me through some clowning, high wire, high flying and tumbling.
In Cranked Up you are the MC described as a ‘roving Indigenous provocateur’, what can we expect from you and your character?
You can expect a bit of fun! Humility and humour are things I’m excited about exploring in this role. I want to create something that will challenge myself as an actor but also help to tell a great story through the vehicle of circus.
How has it been settling in and working with such a large ensemble cast?
It has been excellent. They are incredible performers with such unique skills and talent, I’m glad to be a part of this whole process. Right now I’m kind of finding my flavour here. This creative process has been amazing in allowing us to have a place to play and discover. Coming from a theatre background into a circus, which is completely different, is new and scary but exciting at the same time. I’m just trying to absorb every single minute of it.
We hear you’re a pretty funny guy, do you think that your humour helps to tell a good story, and connect with your audience?
I think humour has been, particularly in the Indigenous community, a way to deal with a lot of serious issues that we have faced. It is a way of thinking, a way of taking that information, absorbing it, letting it digest and become a part of who we are. By using humour as a way of healing, it allows us to move forward. If there is one adage that I’ve always held true, it’s ‘laughter is the best medicine’. I completely agree with that, it’s my motto.