Some of us dream of running away and joining the circus. But Brisbane Cabaret-circus performer Mark Winmill was born into one. For the sexy tattooed man better known as Boy Wonder, performing is literally in the blood.
Winmill’s father was an acrobatic performer and slapstick clown in Brisbane’s club circuit back in the sixties, and his mother, who was reputed with having Australia’s tallest beehive hair-do, was a fairy floss lady. Winmill grew up in a world that was full of colour, character and fascination.
“I rejected it initially. When you grow up in it, and are surrounded by it, you see it differently. In retrospect I realise that it was really interesting and exciting life to grow up in, but when I was younger I felt it all got old fast. Late nights, crazy people and all that bohemia wasn’t really the best environment for a kid. When I was younger, I just wanted a more normal life,” he reminisces.
“I learned a lot in my early days, and from my dad. I appreciate it much more now and those early days definitely helped make me the performer that I am today. I take a lot of inspiration from that time.”
As a self described ‘rough and ready country boy that’s up for anything’, Winmill initially left his circus life and chose instead to train horses for a while. However, he never totally let go of what he’d learned growing up, and it wasn’t too long before he returned back to his performance roots.
Winmill’s love for trapeze and circus arts was re-ignited in 2000 when he auditioned for a performance position for Club Med Resort in Byron Bay. He got the job and it led to two years of touring and performing internationally in Club Med Resorts in beautiful exotic locations like Bali, Singapore and Malaysia.
“Initially I wasn’t out [as a gay man]. Performers work quite closely together, and are often physically close. There’s a lot of lycra and flesh. There is a lot of trust involved. I didn’t want any unnecessary tension. I never hid who I was; I just didn’t make a point of it.” Winmill said inevitably, his sexuality did come up. “It was a bit of a surprise to them at first, but there never were any issues. Typically, all the guys wondered if I ever perved on them in their tight lycra,” he laughs.
Today, Winmill is a full time performer. In fact, his unique, bold and sensual style ensures that he’s one of the busiest and most sought after performers of his kind around, and he relishes every second of it. Both in Australia and internationally, Winmill is a pioneer of ‘boylesque’, giving audiences riveting, humorous and sexually charged performances that play against a backdrop of homo-eroticism and the male physique. His style is a visually rich and fresh, a queer mix of circus, burlesque, kooky theatrics and gender bending.
Recently Winmill starred alongside the cream of Australian theatre and circus performers in Feasting On Flesh; a circus inspired burlesque production at the Sydney Opera House. The highly successful and critically acclaimed show toured internationally and led to Winmill performing at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. He’s heading back to Edinburgh and the UK later this year for more shows and to champion Australian ‘boylesque’.
Winmill’s nightclub and festival performances often involve collaborations with independent musical ensembles, theatre and dance companies such as Brides Of Frank, Bounty 75 and Polytoxic, where he performs alongside his equally talented boyfriend Fez Fa’anana. He also works on a brilliant underground night on the Brisbane scene called Briefs, which he is really excited about.
“These days events are so structured and formal. It’s all about numbers. Nobody does anything for fun anymore. That’s really sad,” Says Winmill.
“Briefs is put together by a bunch of creative people who want to have a good time and really express themselves, rather than make money or treat it like a commercial venture. It’s really great – the real deal. Very sexy and very underground. And yes, it slightly borders on dodgy, but that’s what’s exciting.”
Boy Wonder has just finished performing in Garnished in Brisbane, and he’s also very excited about heading to Melbourne for a couple of exciting one off performances, where he’ll be unveiling some new silk aerial work.
“I love travelling and performing, so it’s always exciting for me. I’ve had some really great experiences in Melbourne the last time I was there. The audiences are great… they get it, and I’ve built a lovely relationship with the girls at Hi Ball Burlesque. Melbourne! Bring it on!”
Mark Winmill aka BoyWonder appears as a special guest tonight, Thursday 23rd April at Ali McGregor’s Late Night Variety Night as part of the Melbourne International Comedy festival.
Melbournites can also catch him this Sunday April 26 at Red Door Burlesque at the Order of Melbourne.