What does it take to be a performer in Cirque du Soleil? Mary Bolling asks trampolining cricket Laura Houson
Cirque du Soleil is the height of skill and finesse in the circus world, and they are certain to floor you with their show, OVO. Delighting audiences all over the world with this production, Cirque de Soleil is coming to Melbourne to show us their take on the ecosystem, through unimaginable acts and talent.
So where does the humble backyard trampoline fit with the famous Cirque du Soleil? For Laura Houson, a spring-loaded mat has launched her stunning international career.
Houson is a performer in Ovo, the latest offering from the world-famous Canadian circus company. The Brit plays “Cricket” – again, not the backyard variety. And we’re not talking the Ashes, either.
Rather, Ovo is a grand-scale take on a miniature world: the lives and times of high-flying insects. It means “egg” - and Houson is just one of the creepy-crawlies who’s been incubating, and is set to infest the Cirque du Soleil big top in Docklands from January 17. It’s a spectacular performance that’s synonymous with death-defying heights, and awe-inspiring acrobatics.
The show’s been in Australia since July, but Houson first joined it in Canada, aged just 19. Now 23, she’s been leading an international bug’s life ever since. But the former gymnast and Team GB tumbling representative says life with the 120-strong cast and crew is far from dull.
“Before Cirque du Soleil, I just wore a normal plain leotard – so to have the costumes, and exploring different sides of a character, it’s more than just being an acrobat,” she says.
Houson’s troupe of crickets soar, plunge and tumble between their trampolines and the "wall", a huge vertical surface that allows for heart-stopping hang-time. She’s the only female amongst the group, and is happy to be queen bee.
“Sometimes I feel like a queen, and the guys will all revolve around me, sometimes I get to be flirty – it’s a lot of fun being only girl!” Off-stage, she doesn’t mind the macho surrounds. “If they’re all getting too competitive, I just move out of the way!”
While trampolines might be the most household of Cirque du Soleil’s apparatus, Houson says there’s nothing pedestrian about her performance. While she started gymnastics aged five, it wasn’t until her teenage years that she got a trampoline in the backyard. But, as they say in the classics, “don’t try this at home”.
“It’s taken years of practise to get to this level,” she explains. But she agrees that the sport is very accessible. “I would say anyone can do it!” It does come more easily for some though. “Some people have more natural talent, more natural bounce and spring in their body. Back home, I was coaching four- and five-year-olds, and you could just look at some of them and say, they’re naturally bouncy!”