The Fame Reporter interviewed the spectacular CIRCA performer Paul O’Keeffe. He is starring as the lovable quirky Shaun the Sheep based on the popular animated series currently playing at the Lyric Theatre, QPAC until 21 March.
This thrilling world premiere season of Shaun the Sheep’s Circus Show combines the extreme physicality and awe-inspiring feats of Circa and the playful charm of the multi-award-winning TV series Shaun the Sheep.
Shaun is a sheep who doesn’t follow the flock – in fact, he leads them into all sorts of scrapes and scraps, turning peace in the valley into mayhem in the meadow. Whether they’re tormenting the weary postman or escaping the havoc of a runaway tyre, Shaun and his pals run rings around their poor sheepdog Bitzer and the oblivious Farmer. Every day brings a new adventure for Shaun.
We talked to Paul about what he loves about playing Shaun the Sheep, how he got involved with CIRCA, what audiences can expect from this spectacle and more.
What was the inspiration behind the popular TV show Shaun the Sheep becoming a live Circa spectacle?
I was brought into the creative process as an acrobat in the show close to 6 months ago but I believe initial conversations between Circa and Aardman around the idea of making Shaun The Sheep into a circus show began a couple of years ago.
Ngaio Harding-Hill, Head of Attractions and Live Experiences at Aardman is quoted as saying “We have always had an ambition to create a Shaun the Sheep circus show. The physicality of circus performance marries perfectly with the slapstick traditions, thrills and humour of the brand. Circa’s creative vision made them the perfect partner to create a Shaun the Sheep Circus show for global audiences. Shaun is already very at home in Australia, so we are thrilled to premiere the show at QPAC.”
How did you get involved with Circa and what do you love about it?
I’ve been a professional performer for 25 years. During that time I’ve worked for a range of companies performing in circus, dance, puppetry, musical and physical theatre.
I’d been following Circa’s work ever since the company began in 2004. What interested me was the way the company seemed to me to challenge the perception of what is circus. What else can it be. How does Circa do Circus differently.
I joined Circa in 2013 as a full time acrobat. Since then I have performed in over 15 different Circa productions that have toured all over the world.
Each one [tour] has challenged me physically and mentally. All have been incredibly rewarding and fulfilling.
What 3 performers dead or alive would you love to have a dinner party with?
Buster Keaton, James Thiérree, David Bowie
What is your favourite moment and the most challenging moment in the show?
Favourite moment in any show I’m involved with is the moment the house curtain raises. Knowing the audience may think they know what’s about to happen but then hopefully we completely flip that perception on its head.
Most challenging moment in Shaun The Sheep’s Circus Show would be playing the character role of Shaun. At various parts it’s human me playing the role of a sheep that’s pretending to be a human circus performer.
How similar is the story of the Circus show to the animated children’s tv show?
The Shaun the Sheep TV series has a vast amount of circus scattered throughout each episode. It is a perfect fit for Circa. It translates incredibly well into a live stage show.
We take elements from the tv series and combine it with what Circa is best known for which is high level circus, carefully crafted imagery and a show that connects with the hearts, mind and souls of our audiences.
Congratulations on all of your International success performing around the world, what is one of your proudest achievements?
Proudest performing achievements throughout my career have come in many forms. From first performing on 42nd Street, Broadway New York in 1997 to performing in ancient roman ruins throughout Europe to working with Aboriginal communities throughout Australia.
What can audiences expect and why will they love Shaun the Sheep Circus Show?
The entire family will be treated to a visual spectacle, with Aardman’s signature Shaun the Sheep animation, combined with live performance from Circa.
Shaun the Sheep’s Circus Show is packed full of smart wit and outright hilarity, as Circa simultaneously blurs the lines between movement, dance, theatre and circus.
Fame Reporter Word Play
Shaun the Sheep
Engaging, playful and clever
Should buy a bucket
Home of great art
Favourite mantra when you are down
Get up. But seriously, It’s ok to be down.
Remind myself of my goals and accomplishments and try to get back up.
World class circus
Any secret talents
I can sing really badly
Times Square. Big electricity bills
Favourite Acro skill
It’s really anything where I’m flying upside-down through the air whether it be partner acro, teeterboard, trapeze etc. Also another favourite was when I performed a 12.7 metre high fall. The job was to step off a ledge and free fall face first, turn at the last second and land on a crash mat 12.7 metres below.
Savoury or Sweet
Dressing Room necessity
A costume hanging on the rack ready for the show otherwise it’ll just be me onstage in my underwear and no-one wants to see that.
Can’t live without
Simon Yates from the company Acrobat.
Place you want to travel to (when we can)
Performing back overseas.
TV Show Binge
Currently re-watching Boston Legal
Finally, favourite thing about performing
A good time for all.
Thank-you Paul for joining us at The Fame Reporter and we wish you all the best for Shaun the Sheep Circus Show.
Shaun The Sheep’s Circus Show
Playing until 21 March
Lyric Theatre, QPAC
All photos – Supplied