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DRESSING FOR THE BAROQUE – Designing the costumes for our latest show

Circa’s third collaboration with the superb Australian Brandenburg Orchestra combines onstage regal and striking compositions by Purcell, Handel, Playford and Dowland with the extreme virtuosity of Circa’s acrobats. The difference? It’s set in the theme of the English Baroque period featuring compositions played on period instruments, and of course, English Baroque-inspired fashion (you know what they say, “if it’s not Baroque, don’t fix it”).

Circa’s incredibly talented costume designer Libby McDonnell gave us a few quips on some behind-the-scenes photos of her design process for English Baroque as she dressed Circa’s acrobats, Brandenburg’s orchestra and Soprano Jane Sheldon.

“Rich colours in opulent fabrics in contemporary suit jacket style. Even though the music is Baroque, not all the theatrical elements need to be reenacting the baroque period . The Orchestra are a beautiful, energetic and downright sexy ensemble. Their costume design should reference the baroque yet help us bring the music into the present.”


“Working in non-literal ways, without storyline I often choose to distil a design idea and keep refining it until it’s a suggestion of an idea, rather than a reenactment of one. I spent just as much time researching the history of the period as I did in this process of refinement. It’s important to know what you are choosing not to do and why.”


“On the left this is a sketch of an initial idea for Jane Sheldon’s (soprano) costume. As soon as I met Jane, heard her sing and saw her interact with the acrobats in the rehearsal room I instinctively knew this was not the right direction for her costume. One of the many important lessons I’ve learned is to know when to trust my instinct.
I’m getting much quicker at ‘knowing’ and much more ruthless with myself and discarding favourite designs that just won’t work. On the right is foiled, tie dyed nylon lycra that will be used for the acrobatic costume. Much more ornate than I would usually use which is why I love it. A contemporary fabric being used to reference this baroque period! I wanted a fabric that had the aesthetics of the ornate gold foiled statues and frames.”


English Baroque opens 2 May in Canberra and will tour to Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane. For tour dates and tickets to English Baroque head over at 


Circa is based in Meanjin (Brisbane) on the lands of the Jagera and Turrbal people. We respectfully acknowledge the Traditional Custodians of the many lands on which we create and perform. We pay our respects to Elders past, present and emerging.
Always was. Always will be.