theatre

Phantom Colin

Toast to Colin Anderson

“Colin would have loved this show”, my friend Michaela noted as we enjoyed a half-time drink at “Ruthless – The Musical” at Sydney’s Seymour Theatre tonight. The show was well acted, well sung, it was camp, and it was fun, but it was also deadly serious. It was the kind of show Colin and I would have bought tickets to see togther. Sadly, he passed away last night, and so tonight Michaela and I held our glasses high and remembered him.

I told Michaela tonight about the first time I’d met Colin. It was at the end of 1991 and I’d recently arrived in Wagga (from Renmark) and was invited by a couple of new friends to attend a party at Colin’s place. Although Colin was the Head of Drama at Charles Sturt University for many years, I didn’t know him from a bar of soap. I hardly knew the people who’d invited me. So when Colin walked up to me and asked (with a wry smile), “Who are you and what are you doing here”, I replied, “I was told if I wanted to meet anyone interesting in Wagga, I should meet you”. “You can stay”, he said with a laugh.

Over the next few years our friendship in Wagga blossomed. It was cemented when we both, at similar periods in time, moved to Sydney. With a bite to eat here, and a glass of wine there, we became good friends, sharing a common love of theatre.

In the last few years his health declined dramatically, and so he eventually moved back to Newcastle (to be closer to his family). It’s probably eighteen months, now, since we’ve enjoyed a night at the theatre together. I woke this morning and saw the late night text message from his niece, Helen, that Colin had passed. It wasn’t a surprise. I went to Newcastle on the weekend to say “goodbye”. Though unconscious, I hope he knew I was there. He had been in a lot of pain and discomfort. His passing was, in many ways, a relief. And then tonight, fittingly, I went with a friend to the theatre to see a show Colin would have loved, and toasted the life of a good friend of over twenty years.

Empty Vessell at The Giant Dwarf

The Chaser’s Giant Dwarf

“In the last twelve months two of the institutions I’ve given so much of my life and passion to have disappointed me deeply”, was the most memorable line from Kristina Keneally last night. The former NSW Premier was one of three guests for the “live chat show”, “The Empty Vessell” put by on by The Chaser at their new theatre venue, The Giant Dwarf on Cleveland Street.

Although there were a few moments when she went into “former politician mode”, I thought she was, for the most part, candidly honest. For example, when asked to comment on the current corruption hearing in NSW, she said she never had time for Eddie Obeid, but that she thought she KNEW Joe Tripodi and Tony Kelly, and seemed disappointed in what’s currently occurring.

“For every Eddie Obeid, you have to remember there was a Carmel Tebbutt, a Verity Firth, a John Watkins”, she went on to say, arguing there were still lots of good people in the Labor Party.

“You forgive the Catholic Church for some things, but not the child abuse”, she went on to say about the other institution she said had disappointed in the last twelve months.

Maybe it was the glass or two of red wine she enjoyed as she sat on the stage that resulted in the candidness? Or maybe she’s reached the point where she doesn’t feel the need to justify everything the former NSW Labor Government did and didn’t do? She was unequivocal about NEVER returning to a political life.

The other two guests were Norrie May-Welby and John Watson.

Norrie was the person who recently won a case in the High Court to be formally recognised as “non-specific gender”. Whenever I’ve seen Norrie speak in the past there’s always been a bit of showbiz about the presentation style, as it’s usually been at a rally or something like that. Speaking/shouting in public isn’t usually conducive to honest reflection, which is what I saw last night. I always thought Norrie was slightly crazy, but have now developed a new found respect.

John Watson was the founder of boutique record label Eleven Music, whose artists include Gotya, Cold Chisel, Missy Higgins, silverchair, Daniel Johns, Birds of Tokyo. Of the three guests, he was the least interesting for me. Although I was really interested in the subject matter, I felt he was a little “rehearsed”. There seemed to be a lot of answers or anecdotes he had given previously which disappointed me a little.

Half was through the night there was also a really fantastic comic performance by an actor, writer and director I’d never heard of before called Nick Coyle @nickcoyles. Magic stuff.

Over the course of about two hours, it was really good to sit in a large theatre along with a couple of hundred people to enjoy some really good conversations, with intelligence and humour combining throughout. I’ll definitely be heading back some time in the future.

Charlie Hides as Cher

Charlie Hides

Charlie Hides has one of the funniest live shows I’ve seen in ages. He’s an English comedian – though originally from the United States – who dresses up and impersonates (with humour and affection) some of the great modern pop divas, including Cher, Madonna and Lady GaGa.

For the last couple of years, I’ve been enthusiastically sharing his Youtube videos with friends. The first one that made me laugh was a sketch about the apparent rivalry between Madonna and Lady GaGa. Since then, he’s gone on to incorporate a bunch of other characters including Lana Delray, Joan Rivers and others with the same level of affection and humour. Unlike many other comedians, I don’t think there’s anything nasty or malicious behind his humour.

In the last year or so he’s been doing live shows in London, and I’ve read about this development with a sense of longing and wonder. “There has to be a lot of video in his live shows to achieve what he does”, I whispered to Graeme in the minutes before his live show at Sydney’s “Gingers” began. There is. There are also lots of costumes changes, and a comedy routine which continues to shock and surprise over the course of about ninety minutes. He works hard.

The comedy of his live show was far more cutting edge, and definitely less politically correct, than you see on the Youtube clips. Overall it was a fantastic night which we both enjoyed very much. Hopefully he’ll be back for Mardi Gras again next year.

Photographer - Unsure, but looks like a theatre publicity shot. Happy to credit if I can find out the photographer.

Privates On Parade

“Meet the gang cos the boys are here, the boys to entertain you…” Nearly forty years after having first watched “It Ain’t Half Hot Mum”, the 1970s BBC sit-com, I can still remember and sing-a-long with the opening theme song.

Having spent most of my formative years just a few feet away from a 26″ Chrysler colour TV, it’s no surprise. Along with “It Ain’t Half Hot Mum”, there was a steady regular Friday night television diet courtesy of the ABC which included Dave Allen, The Two Ronnies and “The Trots”. And when I say “The Trots”, I mean trotting. Horses. Yes its true. Every Friday night, ABC TV in NSW (and probably elsewhere) used to regularly feature live coverage of trotting. They might have been done “The Dogs” also, though I don’t have that memory.

Yes it was a different world back then. Although it wasn’t evident to my young eyes, I’m sure if you looked closely at “It Ain’t Half Hot Mum” these days, there would be more than a hint of racism. I don’t think I will. But going to see “Privates On Parade” has re-ignited in me an interest in some of those BBC comedies of my youth.

The subject matter of “Privates On Parade” is similar to “It Ain’t Half Hot Mum”: both are based around the activities of a 1940s English Army Entertainment Troop. Although I’m sure the original play was the basis for the television show, the subject matter of the play is much darker, dealing openly with homosexuality (whereas it was only really hinted at in the TV show), and with death.

I thought the production by New Theatre (as part of Mardi Gras) was excellent. It’s a well written play (of course), though perhaps a little dated. so the company had good material to start with. While there could have been a propensity to ham things up a little, I thought the company did an excellent job in playing it straight, and allowing for the depth of the characters to show.