Asphyxia is Australia’s leading Deaf circus performer turned puppeteer. She has toured nationally and internationally over the past decade with her performing arts company Sky Works.
Asphyxia has a background in ballet, and has trained with Circus Oz and the National Institute of Circus Art, specialising in trapeze, adagio (double balance) and hula hoops. She has created theatre shows, including Blood Makes Noise, which have performed sell out seasons in Melbourne, Sydney and the USA.
A chance encounter with master puppeteer Sergio Barrio on the streets of Guatamala in 2006 introduced Asphyxia to the world of marionette theatre – and she was hooked! Asphyxia’s first puppet show, The Paint Factory, has won the hearts of audiences all over Australia. Her latest show The Grimstones - Hatched took her eighteen months to create. She designed the aesthetic for the show, handcrafted each of the marionettes, and built the set.
Despite the growing popularity of puppetry in Australia, marionettes are rarely used here. Asphyxia is passionately committed to introducing Australian audiences to the delightful world of marionettes, and creating groundbreaking new concepts with this traditional form of theatre.
“They came to life and you forgot they were just puppets.” - Daniela Grasso
Rather than hiding behind a miniature stage, Asphyxia brings the puppeteers into the performance and creates an integral role for them.
“So beautiful and touching. It was very special to see the
puppet-human relationship.” – Louise Osland.
As a Deaf artist, Asphyxia creates works that reflect and strengthen Deaf culture and values - providing positive modelling and validation for Deaf audiences. She provides education about Deaf culture and lifestyle to hearing audiences.
The Grimstones is a high quality, engaging, beautiful and innovative piece of theatre by Australia’s premier Deaf performing artist.
‘Nothing in the world gives me greater pleasure than creating things—whether by stitching, performing, drawing, sculpting, writing or building.’ - Asphyxia
Asphyxia grew up surrounded by an unruly mob of brothers, sisters and cousins. As one of the eldest, she took it upon herself to direct the children in an endless series of games, all set in magnificent fantasy worlds. Asphyxia was a great story-teller - she held others captive with elaborate tales of magical witches, faeries, pixies, goblins and evil characters.
Next to her bed was a very large pile of books. It seemed magical to her that something as ordinary as a pile of paper pressed between two pieces of cardboard could be opened to reveal endlessly mysterious and delightful worlds.
She wrote her first novel at twelve and entered it in the St Kilda Writers’ Festival competition where it won first prize. ‘And now, I am a writer,’ she told herself proudly.
She churned out stories daily; as soon as one was finished another character sprang to mind with a new adventure that just had to be written down!
Asphyxia also had a passion for making dolls. She used fabric, mouldings and wax in a constant search to create the perfect doll. For hours at a stretch she played with fabric and patterns, snipping and stitching, bringing the characters from her imagination to life. She made rows and rows of dolls, all with long spindly legs and big heads.
She had always longed to be a ballerina and finally started lessons at the age of eight. From her first performance she discovered a love of the stage. Costumes transformed her: a beautiful golden tutu sprinkled with sequins released her inner faery; in a blue-green chiffon she was a water-sylph; and in dirtied rags she was a shivering waif. She worked hard and won a scholarship to the Jenny Johnson School of Ballet but due to her deafness she was unable to pursue a professional career in ballet.
Through the use of teletext captions, she fell in love with The Addams Family on TV. She was captivated by the incredible quirks of this family and delighted in their magnificent, gothic home. Her favourite character was Wednesday with her beautiful black braids and surly temperament.
As a young adult she was introduced to hippy culture and the world of hand built houses. ‘This is what I’ll do. I will build myself a fairytale cottage! Not just a cottage, but a chapel, with ornate stained-glass, gothic-arched windows. It will be powered by the sun, with a composting toilet, and surrounded by vegetables. This will be my home — the biggest artwork I’ve ever created.’ Some laughed at her dream and were not convinced she could build a house from mud and call it home. But she did!
Once the house was finished, Asphyxia discovered a new passion: the circus! She joined the acrobats, trapeze artists and hula hoopers at Circus Oz, determined to absorb their expertise. The euphoria of building her home became the inspiration for a trapeze act, The Caged Girl. Swinging high, she took a deep breath and dropped below the bar, hanging only by her ankles.
The years of ballet training came back to her and she was graceful and magnificent on the trapeze. She returned to sewing costumes, making props, working her body hard. The circus became her world. That is until she met Sergio and discovered marionettes…
For more information about Asphyxia’s inspiring life read The Grimstones – an artist’s journal by Asphyxia.