Written by Kellie Warner
Brisbane theatre lovers have an opportunity to get to know Australia’s first lady of song, Marina Prior, as she brings her solo show to The Brisbane Powerhouse this September. See Prior as you have never seen her before as she wows and enchants her audience with the songs that made her famous, Celtic music from her childhood and her old busking favourites.
Prior has performed her solo show around Australia for the last couple of years and performed it at the Hayes Theatre in Sydney this year. But now it is Brisbane’s turn to be delighted by Prior and her unique show which in essence is Prior’s career journey in song. She describes the show as her ‘autobiographical music evolution.’
Of the music she performs in her solo outings, she says, “It is an eclectic mix of music. The music that I really like singing. So it’s an in depth kind of opportunity to show the vast differences [and] influences in my life.”
Prior certainly has enough experience to fall back on with three decades in the industry. She started out busking like so many musicians have done, the jangle of money in the guitar case giving them hope that their talent and passion for music is being noticed – even if just by a few commuters. Prior sang songs she loved including the iconic ‘Wuthering Heights’ by Kate Bush; a vocal feat not many could manage.
But this busker was no ordinary singer, this was a woman whose voice would go on to delight Australians in popular musicals such as Les Miserables, The Phantom of The Opera and The Pirates of Penzance. She went straight from busking to the professional stage. Auditioning basically on a dare with her friends for Victoria State Opera’s production of The Pirates of Penzance, expecting nothing at all; she was given the lead role of Mabel. Something that she says she never dreamed of: “I honestly didn’t even project myself to being in the chorus… and to be literally plucked out of obscurity and just given the lead role in a huge commercial production…It wasn’t until later after I’d been in the industry for a while that I realised that doesn’t happen very often.”
While it took Prior a while to realise getting a lead role at your first audition is the stuff of fairy tales, for a time she felt it meant that she had somehow not paid her dues. Other female performers dismissed her getting the role as ‘luck’. Fortunately Prior eventually realised that her ‘luck’ had in fact been talent and a lot of hard work, “I certainly had the opposite to a foot in the door. I was nobody. The only thing that got me the role is the ability to do it… It took me quite a while to actually own that.”
Indeed, Prior now realises she simply trained for the theatre in a different way than most, with practical experience rather than studying the theory. “My training in a way was in front of two thousand people every night, eight shows a week… It was sink or swim. I just learned a different way. I learned by watching seasoned professionals around me. I learnt by getting it wrong… But that was my training. Tough training but it was exciting.”
So now Prior feels it is the right time to tell her audience about her long career, and what better way than through the medium she loves – song. “I actually came to a point where I thought – yes I actually have a tale to tell. That’s one of the good things about getting older; you actually accumulate life experiences and then it starts sort of spilling out in your work, and that’s good.”
Prior will be accompanied at this event by David Cameron – her musical director and pianist for 25 years – whom she considers part of the family. She has passionate admiration for Cameron’s talent, saying, “He is just a master. An absolute master… I’m just lost in admiration for him. He’s just the most humble genius.”
What Prior appreciates about doing a solo show is the opportunity for the audience to get to know her. So often we see her as playing a character role so it is freeing for Prior to be herself. “It’s wonderful to be just able to chat as myself. It’s fantastic. I love doing it and the audiences seem to love it too.” As well as tales from her extensive career, Prior wants to share a few lessons with her audience. She is keen for people, especially young performers, to get the message that they should be true to themselves, “As an artist, one of the most important things I’ve ever learned is knowing who ‘I’ am and being that, and not trying to be a version of somebody else. I think there is a great strength artistically in knowing who you are.”
This is a golden opportunity to see Australia’s number one leading lady being herself and sharing her life journey. With just three shows being played in Brisbane, you need to purchase your tickets fast to guarantee you experience what is certain to be an unmissable, awe-inspiring, and captivating show.
“A Prior Engagement” at the Visy Theatre, Brisbane Powerhouse on Thursday 10th September (7:00 pm) and Friday 11th September (2:00 pm & 7:00 pm). Tickets start from $74.
For more information and bookings, see www.brisbanepowerhouse.org, or phone (07) 3358 8600