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WAO Ghost Spotlight with Sharon Kyrwood

As we enter a new era with less restrictions, it is timely to reflect on the thrills, challenges and differences between digital and live performance. From the film set to the stage, we want to shine a spotlight on our creatives working in the Ghost Light to bring the magic of opera to you. Connect with your state opera company on an intimate level and witness the passion, precision and thought required to breathe life into the characters you behold.

Join us with makeup artist Sharon Kyrwood as she reveals her experience tracking non-linear makeup changes for The Telephone, the electrifying pace of live events, and her love for transforming artists into opera’s most sinister villains.

1. Tell us about your experience working as Head of Makeup for The Telephone – how does it compare to live opera? Were there any new requirements or pressure points?

The Telephone was created so it could be shot in any order and later edited, whereas in the theatre we go from start to finish. As a makeup artist, it is my job to keep track of what stage the makeups are supposed to be at. For example, Lucy starts off with her makeup half-done, and as the opera progresses, she becomes more finished, then turns a little messy after she cries.

2. You have created the makeup looks for many different WAO productions. What has been your favourite to work on and why?

I think the one that I really had the most fun with was Sweeny Todd. I was able to go a little feral with the makeups! I really like it when the artists come and say they didn’t look dead enough or want more bags under their eyes. I really enjoyed doing the scar on Ben Mingay (Sweeny Todd) and making him look dark and evil.

3. To what extent does makeup artistry support the stories told on stage? Where do you draw inspiration from?

Makeup artistry aids in completing the look. From costume to wigs, they all need to be balanced to create a cohesive look for each character. Sometimes we are given an era like the 1920’s – this gives me a place to start my ideas. From this I then look at the costumes and the wigs, which usually gives me the most rounded and complete idea. Of course, there may be specific quirks that a character has, like they only wear red lipstick, which you then build into the look.  

4. What challenges and opportunities have the last few months presented? What did working in the “ghost light” mean for you?

Well to be honest, over the last few months I have had the opportunity to take things easy. Usually I am flat out working. As far as COVID19 is concerned, it has changed quite a few things in the makeup world. Luckily, I was already working to the highest hygiene standards, so there was no major change for me. I am just using the time to educate everyone I work with and for about the best and safest way to use makeup.

5. What have you learned about yourself over the pandemic period?

WOW, a lot actually! It has forced me to STOP! and slow down to enjoy the day instead of running around from job to job. I am so much better at my mindfulness practice, taking time to notice the changes in the colours of the roses day by day.

I also noticed that this pandemic has been feeding into my need for cleanliness. I feel much happier now that everywhere must be cleaned well.

6. How will you be spending your days now that restrictions are relaxed?

My life really won’t change too much with the relaxing of the restrictions – my work won’t be fully up and running until the WA borders are open.  So, I plan to continue to take time off and relax, go for walks and be with my cat.

7. What excites you most about returning to live events?

When I see a show, be it Opera or Theatre, there is that moment where my skin tingles and I am totally absorbed into the events that are happening on stage. I love being a part of creating that moment or image for someone else.

I also love the pace of live events; 30-second costume and makeup changes are what I live for.


Don’t miss The Telephone – with makeup by Sharon Kyrwood, this digital opera production is available via West Australian Opera’s YouTube Channel



Starting out over 25 years ago, Sharon began her career in bridal makeup working on more than 50 weddings each year. A chance meeting at a photo shoot saw her move into high fashion, editorial and commercial makeup. She has been published in international, national and local publications.

“I love the freedom of being able to go outside the norm when working in high fashion, editorial and theatrical makeup”Sharon Kyrwood

​About 10 years ago she turned her focus to TV, film, and theatre, and now works as a regular makeup artist with Fox Footy and Fox Sport. In the theatrical world she has been working with West Australian Opera over the past few years as Head of their Makeup Department.

“I love my job, working to make the makeup look good under different lighting is a great challenge. In the theatre as in film, we get to create the look of a character, helping the performer to feel the part.”Sharon Kyrwood