Talking Boylesque with Thomas Worrell

The boys are back!

The Briefs team are returning to Melbourne for a return season of Briefs: Close Encounters. Their sold-out shows left Melbournites begging for more of their wonderful mash of cabaret, comedy, circus and burlesque.

Close Encounters had its premiere at the Adelaide Cabaret Festival in 2017, and went on to London’s Underbelly Festival, Auckland’s Q Theatre, Sydney Festival, and Edinburgh Fringe.

Thomas Worrell is one of the show’s stars, and is an accomplished Aerialist, Contortionist and Acrobat. Thomas shows off his incredible talents in Close Encounters, and I had a chat with him about his life as a performer ahead of the return season next month.

Could you tell me a bit about your performance history?

Technically you could say I started as a child, as I was singing and dancing and showing off some random trick it’d taught myself like touching my toes to my head. I began taking dance lessons when I was 12, although I kept it a secret from almost everyone. I actually chose to pursue a career in science but in my second year at Sydney Uni and I decided my heart wasn’t in it. I wanted to try my hand at becoming an aerialist so dove headfirst into a full time Bachelor of Circus Arts. Since graduating, I’ve worked on cruise ships, in large production shows like Le Grand Cirque and Le Noir, competed in international circus festivals and now have been performing with Briefs for 5 years.

Photo by Kate Pardey

Where did your passion for aerial and contortion stem from?

I always had a naturally flexible back growing up so I actually ended up teaching myself contortion at home in my bedroom while procrastinating from doing my homework. It was those skills that got me into the Bachelor degree program at NICA. In 2004, I saw an aerial hoop routine that completely captivated me and blew my mind. It was then I knew that I wanted to do hoop. I moved to Melbourne and started a 3 year degree with the sole intention of becoming a professional aerial hoop artist without ever having touched one. Side note: it hurts, a lot!

What is the most interesting part of being in the Briefs crew?

The most interesting thing with Briefs, especially when compared to other companies I’ve worked for, is the celebration of the individual. There is such a distinct note of each person in everything we put on stage. Everybody contributes, everybody is acknowledged, everybody is championed. It’s not about “here’s the act, go do it,” but rather what can you as a performer and artist bring to this moment in the show. How can you make it yours. Aside from gender, the diversity in the group is what is championed most. It’s about bringing ourselves to the stage and showing that everyone is accepted and everything exists on a scale, whether it be sexuality, masculinity, femininity, body type, etc.

Photo by Carnival Cinema

Are you excited to be coming back to Close Encounters?

Briefs Factory has a number of shows in its arsenal, so we’ve been touring some of our other productions like Briefs: The Second Coming and Club Briefs. It’s always so great to come back to Close Encounters because its Briefs on a whole other level. It’s or largest production and it’s so incredibly fun to perform.

If you could go back in time, what’s one thing you’d tell your younger self?

“Start stretching those legs now, kid!” – while I’ve been graced with a naturally flexible back, my leg flexibility has always been a point of difficulty although learning to work around it has helped me develop a more unique vocabulary in my skills.

Arts Centre Melbourne and Briefs Factory present 

Briefs: Close Encounters | October 23-27

For tickets and more information, please visit the Arts Centre Melbourne website.

Gabi Bergman

Gabi Bergman is a Melbourne-based performer and educator, and is the current Deputy Editor-in-Chief of She holds a Double Arts degree in Theatre Studies and Film/Screen Studies and a Master of Teaching (Secondary Education). Gabi has always been an avid lover of theatre, specifically musicals, and spends way too much money than she’d like to admit on tickets. Her most prized possession is her crate of theatre programs.

Gabi Bergman

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