Jen Marshall

I came to Wollongong with my family from NZ and my intention was to pursue my love of physical Theatre. I’d studied with Drama Action in Sydney and planned to return for further study. This was not to be, they had closed down. I’d been running an after school circus/Gym club with kids in NZ and had also been recently introduced to fire twirling skills. I was definitely hooked! We found ourselves living in Wollongong and my beautiful children Balunn 13yrs, Lily 9yrs (both fire twirling enthusiasts) and I joined up with a local youth group, Circus Elixir. We had found the perfect arena to share our twirling skills.

We participated in a collaborative community event—Manthys drumming group, Circus WOW & Circus Elixir. A parade at Puckeys Lagoon and later at Stuart Park with fire twirlers, acrobats and music. Fire reflections across the water, like-minded community, this was my dream come true, I’d found my family. After this event I joined Circus WOW, a newly formed women’s circus. ‘Wild Older Women’ which became ‘Women Of Wollongong’ (young chicks didn’t want to miss out on the fun). I definitely became an “Old Dog” and WOW did we learn some NEW TRICKS!

Over 10 years I committed to Circus WOW learning clowning, acrobatics/adagio, stiltwalking, aerials, object manipulation and performance craft. It was an incredible part of my life; friendships, performances, challenges, community involvement, circus outreach teaching and more. I took to clowning in a big way, learning from incredible masters—Angela de Castro, Tom Greder, Sue Broadway, Annie?—and took part in the Tasmanian Circus Festival twice, where I was lucky enough to learn from many more brilliant teachers. I was in my element, I’d found an absolute passion! I loved how clowning supported my other new found circus skills, and that combined with a group of clever, funny, brilliant women it led to some highly polished performance acts. eg South Coast Scrubbers, Landforms, The Nancies, Bathing Belles, Corporate Case, Ski Bunnies, Baggage Carousel and What’s Her Story?

In Circus WOW’s first show Whats Her Story? I ended up as the cover face for the promo, proud moment. The photo shoot for it was hilarious, a crew of us doing makeup (Soy helping me, I was hopeless!) crushed in a little flat trying to get some decent photos. GOOD TIMES! I especially loved The Seagulls, a stilt act in that show. A giant chip suspended in space comes down and we are on stilts, dressed as seagulls. What an absolute hoot! Absurd and hilarious.

The South Coast Scrubbersmy all time favourite, a parody of the iron man beach culture combined with the role of women. My character ‘Boss’ was the leader of a motley surf club team of ironing women. I ran the team through crazy drills and we used ironing boards for daring acro/adagio & clowning routines. OMG the best fun ever! The Scrubbers got out and about at many local events and also travelled to QLD, Yapoon and Tassie.

Landforms, earlier known as Beneath my Feet, was another highlight for me. Working with a fabulous team of dedicated and highly skilled women I was part of something beautiful and serious, working on Soraya’s inspiration, and under Wendy Regan’s direction. I performed some of my best adagio, not mentioning anything specific (a fish sandwich—see photo). I’m flying a bluebird on Penny Lowther, base extraordinaire, and basing Soraya, flyer extraordinaire on top. Bloody genius. Ordinary woman doing extraordinary things!

Development of the piece meant I got to explore awesome stilting acro. We collaborated with Sarah Moss, film/video genius and Manthy, musical maestro which took it to another level completely. Landforms was performed locally & toured to the Tassie festival, AND dreamed of Edinburgh. How blessed to be part of such a creation.

The clowning arena unleashed a few other beauties for me including:

  • The Martweenis, stilt martini twins Absinthia (myself) and Natrasher (Mara Vuk). We performed at local events and the best ever at Foreplay for the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras. We made lots of new friends.
  • Jiggy Jig, a bogan air guitarist
  • Bowling Woman—Adventure before Dementia
  • Strong WoMAN—Gaetane & myself performing at Kangaroo Valley Folk festival
  • The Suited corporate workers developed into Corporate Case, a phone-twirling umbrella-carrying mad corporate stress ball. My first solo work.
  • Zebra girl—Zebra-clad kooky lady
  • Jenatalia a Palomino (yes a horse) from Puketapu NZ, ridden by Sticky Lips (Maree, Maree, Maree), whipped into order (or not) by Ring Mistress Tracy (Jane Challis JC) & MCed to its full potential by Michael Jones. (Only the best for Heidi Hilliers birthday!)
  • Blue Mania—Private bathrooms only! Too dangerous to appear in public.

I thank Circus WOW for the adventure and have such gratitude for the women who I worked and played with. WOW what a ride! Never to be forgotten.

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