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Mea Warburton: A Day in the Life at the Circus

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Mea joined Cirque du Soleil in 2017 and is currently the Wardrobe Technician on Amaluna. On the show, she’s more commonly known as the ‘Shoe Queen’ and you’ll often find her in the ‘Shoe Palace’. Mea has performed as the on-call female clown in the show, too.

Ever wondered what it’s like to be part of the largest contemporary circus producer in the world? Mea tells us what it’s like to be in Cirque du Soleil during San Franciso premiere day.

9.00

After travelling from London to San Francisco a couple of days ago I’ve woken up and already I’m desperately trying to fight through the jet lag, it’s the only downside to travelling so much for work! Today’s the day before the premiere so it’s a packed and busy day ahead!

I have breakfast and relax a little while looking out the window to see what today’s weather looks like before making my way to work. I’m not a morning person so this takes a while.

12.00 – 12.30

I get an Uber to work and gaze out the window to take in where I’m living, to see what’s around. I arrive early so I can have a cuppa and chat with my colleagues who are more like family to me as we all work together and live so close to each other – it’s a very tight-knit community. We all support each other through our ups and downs, especially when we’re homesick (a frequent occurrence with me) but my Amaluna family always looks out for me and there are lots of hugs involved!

13.00

I put my apron on as things are going to get messy! After a hectic two days of laundry and organising costumes, shoes and accessories, it’s time to put the finishing touches to garments ready for the big day.

I start my day by cleaning all the shoes used by the show’s stars, including the main characters, Romeo and Miranda and taking over on any other shoes that need extra attention.

I collect all the shoes and go through these one by one. After I’ve airbrushed, foiled and polished each pair, I line them up on my rainbow carpet and distribute everything ready for the show.

Let’s just say the Shoe Palace at this point looks like a paint bomb’s gone off!

15.15

By now everything has been distributed, and I feel confident that it all looks perfect for the show. I like to go around all the dressing rooms and check in every artist’s shoe caddy to see if everything is there and ready, including accessories like gloves and belts.

We have around 50 artists on the show so this takes a fair while – one artist could have up to four or five pairs of shoes!

16.30

By now, everything is looking good for the premiere. It’s now time to prepare everything backstage for the dressing track. I put costumes and safety harnesses that are used with our big costume props backstage, and curtains and mirrors in the tunnels under the stage.

17.00

Setting up everything backstage is a quick job and easy to do after so much practice. Afterwards, I head back to wardrobe and help with any last-minute costume repairs or distribution for that night’s show.

17.30

By this point, everybody’s getting ready for the show; putting on their make-up and coming to wardrobe to get their hair done. We have quite a few hairstyles in the show and some girls need their hair braiding underneath their hairnets for their wigs, which I also help with.

I also handle any make-up queries, so if actors and performers need more make-up or another product, I’ll give it to them and mark it off our inventory. I also airbrush tattoos on the faces of specific artists like the musicians and Valkyries and some characters like the Cali, the lizard, who requires his scales to be sprayed on with a stencil.

We’ll also find out the show version through our line-up board which tells us who we are dressing and what we need to pre-set.

19.00

I’ve put my dressing blacks on and now it’s time to go into teaching mode! We have local dressers who need training backstage, so I explain everything to them, step by step.

19.30

The show begins and I perform the track backstage. I look after stage left, so after pre-sets, I help with all the necessary quick changes and dressing duties through the show. This includes characters like Romeo, Mainha (Female Clown), Peacock Goddess and our golden unicycle girls as well as the Amazons and Peacocks and many more! In the track, I look after the large costume props which can be a handful sometimes. These include large, dome-like golden skirts and giant peacock tails that are made for 6’3 men!

In between cues, I head back to wardrobe to work on any projects that I might have in the Shoe Palace, which could be anything from a costume prop to preparing shoes for the city run.

It’s the intermission and it’s break time! This is the perfect opportunity to grab a coffee to get me through the last of the show and the working day.

22.00

The show finishes and I wait in front of wardrobe for trainee dressers to come backstage so that I can teach them how laundry works during the evening, which involves everything from the correct hanging of costumes, to hand washing and any extra care required for specific costumes.

23.30 – 00.00

At the close of play, all the costumes have been hung up, and large fans begin drying the cleaned garments for the next day.

Long after the show’s end and after audiences have left the theatre, I journey back to where I’m staying and after such a long and busy day, I collapse into bed to recharge for the next evening’s show!

Illustrated by Alumna Beatrix Hatcher.

Read more about BA (Hons) Costume and BA (Hons) Performace Design and Film Costume.

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