Everybody makes shit up. From “I’m sorry officer, I thought this was a 140 kph zone” to “my dog ate my homework and then regurgitated it onto your desk with the wrong answers.” The art of improvisation is a skill that cannot simply be learned, it is a rare quality ingrained in a chosen few who are destined to either become terrible politicians or extremely convivial comedians. WAYNE BRADY is from the latter.
For those of us who survey their widescreen TVs from beneath a Foxtel dish, he would be most well known as the star of the hit ad lib show Whose Line Is It Anyway? alongside Drew Carey, Colin Mochrie and Ryan Stiles, although he has spent the last 12 months touring his extemporization spectacular Making S*#t Up all across the globe, including a stint in Las Vegas.
“Vegas was wonderful, it’s such a great place for entertainers to be. Everyone that comes through there loves it!” explains Brady. “The tour itself has been amazing. I have done shows all over the world and I’m coming back to Australia. Australian audiences are very improv-savvy, if that makes sense, in that if I make a literary reference or something like that, people tend to get it every time which is great. You can expect improv like on Whose Line, audience participation, physical humour, a few songs from my album – we have dancers and a live band so it’s pretty much like having a Vegas show wherever I am on stage.”
Growing up, one would assume that Wayne would have been the centre of attention, utilising his quick wit to impress the ladies and entertain his friends. Not so, says the talented performer, although it did land him a role as Tigger at Disney World.
“I think that’s a general misconception. People think ‘surely you were the guy always trying to be the centre of attention.’ I was not that guy at all! I think people would want to punch that guy,” he laughs. “When I auditioned at Disney World, you had to audition in general rather than for an actual character. They look for animators who would suit each character individually and I played everyone from Captain Hook to Tigger, it was great being in a costume and being able to become someone completely different each day.”
More recently Wayne has had worldwide success as the host of the US game show Don’t Forget the Lyrics, and I mention how much I enjoyed the special episode starring one of my boyhood sentimental favourites Boyz II Men.
“It really was one of those times when I just thought ‘I love my job.’ The show has been so great, its been so well received in other countries like Australia as well and people just love it. It’s also just about to air in New Zealand and Asia and there is even a French version – it’s very funny to see the show being performed in French. It’s a great gig!”
With a professional resume so long it should be rolled out on a papyrus, it’s hard to make time in the interview to go over all of his achievements although there was one burning issue that I just had to touch on: his hilarious Chapelle Show cameo.
“There is always that one person per day who thinks they are the first person to ever come and say it to me. I have had ten year olds who have come up to me and said ‘are you really going to choke a bitch?’, it’s weird. But people always get it wrong though, so I have had people come up to me and say ‘is Wayne Brady gonna tie someone up with rope?’” he laughs. “At least watch it and get it right!”
Emmy-winning actor, Grammy-winning R’n’B singer, TV host, Broadway actor, pseudo pimp – Wayne Brady has it all. Is there anything he can’t do?
“Well I don’t cook as well as I would like, I can’t play the piano and I haven’t had much luck with relationships so they are all things I would like to work on.” You heard it here first ladies.
You can see the hilarious Wayne Brady perform live at the Royal Theatre on Saturday May 16. Tickets through Ticketek.
“It was a new personal experience – Big Voice,” says Moya. “And it’s become a remarkable and original new show.” Moya Simpson, singer, actor, comedian, leader of voice workshops and choirs, discovered she could sing in the early 1980s at the tender age of 35. Since then she has carved out a career built upon her extraordinary vocal versatility, comic timing and energetic delivery of whatever she takes on. After the hectic time of the Multicultural Festival and the Folk Festival, her new “concentration” is her show Big Voice, a story about finding your voice and your own way in life.
“You know I stopped singing at around 13 years of age because of some bad experience at school. I got chucked out of the choir. I didn’t sing again for 20 years,” says Moya. “Everyone I have told that story to says that they have had some similar experience – told that they can’t do something – well, this new show is to let people know that you can change that and you don’t have to take that negative criticism.”
Big Voice is the personal story of a life in story and song. Moya has written and performed in her own one-woman show before, with Close Your Eyes and Think of England, but Big Voice is more personal. Big Voice is about trying to tell the truth about a life’s story – not just a performance. It is a glimpse of childhood, the people and events that happen in your life, those changes of direction that happen and the risks that you take,” says Moya. “This new show is a big risk as it exposes my life and my own self to the audience. But, I think everyone has their own story to tell and that experience is, in essence, similar to most people and I hope that others will be able to relate to it.
“I was really lucky to work and develop this show over two years with John Bolton and some really talented musicians, Sandy Evans and Ian Blake. The show was a wide open blank canvas and I wanted to explore new musical directions and challenge myself in the acting and singing. Ian is an electronic musician and I have never worked with that style of music before. It is unusual and exciting and he will be making a soundtrack,” says Moya.
“I believe that we need to share the joy of music and singing and pass it on to people. It is a human right to have, make and enjoy creative expression. I hope that the audience of Big Voice will take away from the show the universal human story about lives lived and the joy of singing – its humour, joy and sadness.” Big Voice is about “exploring the humour, joy and light and dark places in someone’s life journey,” says Moya. It will be a theatre experience to challenge and delight Canberra audiences.
Shortis & Simpson presents Big Voice at the Street Theatre from May 14 to 24 @ 8.30pm. Tix $35/$30. Preview May 13 tix only $22. For info and to book call the Street on 62471223.
In THE SEED, the critically acclaimed and much awarded play by Kate Mulvany, three generations of a family reunite in an exploration of family, loyalty and betrayal. Examining war, an immigrant’s story and family idiosyncrasies, the drama hinges on a prodigal’s return. In the director, Iain Sinclair, Canberra sees its own prodigal son return. Iain’s had an impressive journey since leaving his post as Artistic Director of Elbow Theatre in Canberra in 2003; he directed Killer Joe and My Arm for B Sharp at Belvoir Street Theatre while his other directing credits include Beyond the Neck, Lord of the Flies and Hurly Burly.
“It’s been a good run. I’ve worked with interesting actors,” Iain reckons. He’s also worked with Sydney Theatre Company where he’s been assistant director to Max Stafford Clark, Jean Pierre Mignon and Gale Edwards, which Iain says was “pretty cool”. He’s benefited from the experience, and the influence. “Every time you work with an artist of that caliber, there’s always something to steal from them. There’s nothing like watching a master at work.” So then, how was the seed planted for, y’know, The Seed? “Most of my success has been with new writers and Kate is one of them,” Iain explains. “I’ve known Kate for a while — met her at a National Playwrights conference in Canberra and made a good artistic friendship. We first started working together, developing a musical about an embalmer!”
It was only logical that Kate later approached Iain with her idea for The Seed and Iain enthusiastically got behind the project. “We got started on the play two years ago as an independent production downstairs at Company B Belvoir. They liked it and transferred it upstairs (to the main stage), which was a big deal because we managed to break the glass ceiling for the first time in years!”
Not only did Kate write The Seed, she also appears in it as an actor, putting Iain in an unusual position as a director. “It’s traditional for a director to not have playwright even in the room when you’re getting the show together! Normally having the writer as an actor might cause problems but because Kate’s such an expert at changing hats, she knows when to take a note as writer and actor. That’s all part of the rare, special artist that Kate Mulvany is.” So what can the audience expect to see on stage? “It’s a profoundly moving story. Kate tells strong and important stories with an eye to entertainment. The Seed presents a strong subject with many layers. It’s also an immigrant’s story, and it taps into the million weird idiosyncrasies family life has,” Iain says. “It’s a great opportunity to see one of our young writers right on the crest of the wave. Kate will be a writer that you read about in history books. I’m really excited to have a show from outside come back to my home town.”
The play is touring across Australia, and will finish in Kate Mulvany’s home town of Geraldton in Western Australia, marking a prodigal return for the playwright and actor, as well as for a play rooted in the ideas of home and family, peace and war, and leaving and coming back.
The Seed sprouts at the Street Theatre from May 12 to 16 at 8pm. Tix $19-$39. For info and bookings call the Street B.O. on 6247 1223.
To paraphrase Conor Oberst, I’m hunched over this Macbook Pro – I guess you’d call that painting in a cave. The close relation between arts writers and Cro-Magnon Man hasn’t been extensively explored, but it’s analogous enough – the long nights huddled over a faint glow, frantic in the attempt to appease the gods (theatrical, musical, or paintbrushy) with feeble, scratched-out likenesses, offering supplication and adoration if they meet one’s needs or, if not, curses… plus there’s all the grunting, consumption of raw meat and general tendency to be hirsute.
Luckily for this Neanderthal, the gods more often than not offer enlightenment. This fortnight there’s plenty of creative illumination to spark interest, with cabaret, blue-ribbon indy theatre, a smorgasbord of music, exhibitions small and large, and tableaux vivants. And to paraphrase Lou Reed, I’m beginning to see the light.
This issue of Exhibitionist has tried to cover all bases but as usual in the Can, there’s so much on that it’s well-nigh impossible to fit everything in. But you’ll find cabaret in the form of Hayden Tee’s Generation whY?, part of the Street Theatre’s Cabaret Crème 2009 series and Moya Simpson’s Big Voice, also playing at the Street. There’s theatre big and small, from local company Freshly Ground’s showcase of one-acters, Every Base Covered to Company B Belvoir’s The Seed, directed by prodigal N.C. son Iain Sinclair. Profiled tableauxeuse Min Mae tells us why she got into displaying naked, motionless bodies, while dance pro Cadi McCarthy explains moving ones. And as usual there’re opportunities for creatives around the place to get stuck into with the Street Theatre’s Made In Canberra initiative.
As for what isn’t covered in these sparing pages, to paraphrase Snow Patrol (!), open your eyes. From Fyshwick’s M16 Gallery’s drawing prize exhibition running ’til May 31, to house dance classes at DNA (starting May 1, get your socks on at www.danceaerial.com, the Splendid artlab operating in conjunction with Splendour in the Grass and the regular Poetry Slam night at The Front (last Friday of every month), there’s something on in Canberra, or something you can contribute to, every day and night of the week. You just need to take a look around.
Someone recently asked me rhetorically, ‘Why do we do it? Why is the arts important?’ For creatives the cynical answer could be that nothing is better than adulation and applause, but I think for arts makers and audiences alike there’s something (hopefully at least) a little deeper than the lure of adoring and being adored (and for Uninhibited, the hope of free booze and canapés). What we hope to get from and achieve with the art forms that we turn to – whether it’s music, performing arts or the NGA’s Soft Sculpture exhibition, featured next issue – is that lightbulb moment in our heads and hearts. Art – of whatever form – has the ability to cause in us a transformation, from grunting club-wielding unwaxed savages to something hopefully better (and if anything, a lot wankier). And the first step, just like ol’ Bright Eyes tells us, is to knuckle down in our caves and start painting.
I was reading an article in the paper on the weekend which was discussing how the GFC (Global Financial Crisis- though everyone loves using the acronym these days) was going to affect Generation Y. One of those interviewed seemed to be rubbing his chubby middle aged hands with glee at the prospect that finally those arrogant and lazy youngsters would finally get their comeuppance. For so long they had existed in a world of endless credit and opportunity with all the power in their smooth wrinkle free hands (hands which had never been hardened by the need to dig the foundations of society or be dried out by washing their stained labourers uniforms… ).
Well if you, like this member of Generation Y, would prefer to spend an evening listening to the music that was the soundtrack of the years of our gestation and rise to adulthood instead of the bleatings of a bitter old man then I suggest you put down that weekly and get your still-optimistic and taut young body off to the Street Theatre for a performance of Hayden Tee’s Generation whY?.
Generation whY? features re-jigged versions of some of the most influential music of the Generation Y era (roughly 1980 -1994), performed by cabaret star and generation Yster, 28-year-old Hayden Tee. Hayden performs works from the back catalogues of Michael Jackson (when he was still more genius than freak), Enya, Cyndie Lauper and Crowded House (Tee is from New Zealand, after all). The performance isn’t a set of karaoke numbers but instead sees Hayden use a disc and video jockey to mix the works live.
Hayden explained that the initial idea for the show sprung from a discussion with a musical director in London who suggested that Hayden “start looking at some ’80s material as a possible match for my voice type. He brought a CD in of some of his favourite songs and I realised that these were actually the songs I grew up listening to, the songs that were played on the radio, in the car…. the memories started flooding back.” From this discussion the seed was planted which would eventually grow into not only the stage show but also the accompanying CD (also title Generation whY?). “There were a few things I wanted to do differently for this album; the main thing was recording it live in front of an audience in order to capture the emotion and performance aspect only seen and heard when there are people to react to.”
This is not to say that the show has stayed stagnant since its inception. “The show has gone through a lot of changes since that recorded performance in Sydney in February; the most drastic being the script and show concept. During my recent time in New Zealand doing My Fair Lady I have had the chance to research and discover some of the deepest, darkest, brightest and funniest information about my heritage and family and this is now where the show has found a life of its own, not just a selection of songs from the era of 1980-1994 but a look back at over 100 years of my family and comparing each generation and therefore examining Generation Y and future generations to come.”
This then begs the question, what is it exactly that makes Generation Y different from others? “As the show illustrates Gen Yers are very unique. We are a group of computer savvy, uninhibited individuals who just like every generation before us have flaws such as the fact that we live in the communication revolution with the invention of the internet, mobile phones etcetera, and yet we are communicating less than ever on a personal basis, choosing text and email over conversation. At the same time we are the most socially conscious to date with over 80 per cent of Generation Yers volunteering for charity in the last five years.” Points that were obviously missed by the previously mentioned poisoned-pen-pusher.
So come to the Street Theatre and connect to the music that was probably playing on the car radio as you were transformed from “a glint in your father’s eye”. Generation Xers are also obviously welcome (this was the music of your youth after all), as are Baby Boomers - so long as they leave their Generation Y bashing at the door. Come on, it’s good for the economy.
Written and Directed by Toby Gough, THE BAR AT BUENA VISTA pays homage to the famous quarter of Havana, which saw rise to such legends as the late Compay Segundo and Ruben Gonzalez. Premiering in Perth six years ago, the show has enjoyed sell-out tours around the world, bringing the vitality of Cuba’s rich, cigar-smoke infused musical history to the stage.
“The idea was to tell the story behind the social group Buena Vista - not the music phenomenon, but the bar,” explains Carlos Bustamante, the show’s touring translator. “This is a small bar that, back in the ‘40s and ‘50s, was gateway for so many young musicians and performers that 40, 50, 60 years later became internationally famous.”
The cast, comprising members of the four biggest shows out of Cuba, including The Buena Vista Social Club and the Afro Cuban All-Stars, is spearheaded by the unstoppable Reynaldo Creagh, who at 93 is considered Cuba’s last remaining living legend.
“He walks very slowly, and I said to him one time, ‘it’s good that you walk slowly now that you’re old because you’ll fall,’” Carlos says fondly. “He said ‘No Carlos, I walked very slowly when I was 15!’ He has this internal tempo, this way of being - he’s a very calm, relaxed guy. He gets this energy from work: he loves making music, and he loves making people happy.”
Musically, audiences can expect a handful of well-known standards but, pleasingly for any Cuban music aficionados, the show will introduce a raft of more obscure tracks. “The rest are traditional songs that were not international hits or anything like that, but are still beautiful songs,” Carlos explains. “The major element of The Bar is Cuban traditional dance,” Carlos continues. “There are only three or four guys in the world that can serve this style, and we have them at The Bar - we are very happy about that.”
The Bar at Buena Vista plays Canberra Theatre on Friday May 15 and Saturday May 16. Tickets from Canberra Ticketing.