When I was a young I was fed the same fairytales as every other suppressed suburban child thrust in front of the telly. Mama had a few moments of quiet time as my brother and I sat on the floor scoffing crisps, suckling juice boxes and staring at our 24 inch, enchanted by the enigmatic and entertaining majesty of Disney.
I first found romance on that small square of carpet; the electric buzz of the monitor casting a blue glow over my angelic face… a similar and yet more magical light starting to fire in my youthful spirit. Here was a world I wanted to belong to. A world of colourful splendor, of heroes and heroines, of song and violence and hope and happy endings. Disney lay in me the seeds of all and any early imaginative flower that would later bloom and fade as the seasons allowed.
Years later as an adolescent I discovered a truth that would haunt me well into my adult years. Evading our education in the back row of a maths class a friend and I were comparing notes on the f*#!-ability of Disney's leading ladies. I was a clear Pocohontas fan with Ariel coming in a close second and he unable to make up his mind between Belle (terribly plain, I always thought) and Princess Jasmine (a fine selection, though I was basing my judgment not purely on physicality but a considered collection of spirit and body, as well as fashion sense and narrative contribution). After hearing my argument for Ariel as the classic ginger crotch diamond and denying his offensive remarks that she had fankles (fat-ankles) and thus could never be a real princess he informed me that the original story had been penned by Hans Christian Andersen and that it was violent and depressing and yet retained all the romance and magic of all the great fairytales from the golden era of storytelling. He was read to as a child. More than I was it seemed. I fled from school that afternoon to the library and found a copy of Andersen’s collected works. In the small quiet space of my room on my spaceship laden doona I read of The Little Mermaid and her woes and her wonder. I could say that I wept into my pillow, but I didn’t. I could say that I threw the book at the wall and vowed that it was trash, but I didn’t. I could say that I rolled the pages into a literary joint and smoked the story away, but I didn’t. I just sat there, staring at the shit old school drawing of a pasty ranga reaching out of the waves and I felt like shit.
Let me summarise.
A Girl wanting love is given a chance to find it. Girl saves man from drowning. Man mistakes someone else for savior, man falls for wrong girl. Girl loves man, girl gives up song and self for man, girl sits night and day at mans side, girl dances for man and every step she takes it is as if upon shards of glass. Girl offers man her love, her life. Man marries wrong savior. Girl is given the chance to return to her family under the sea if she kills man. She kills herself instead.
Now, let me weep…
No one is going to cast me as the little mermaid. There is a slim chance I might one day be cast as a pirate and an even slimmer chance that someone is going to cast me as a hermaphrodite living a dual life as a stripper and a fist fighter. So I write for myself and slap on some grease paint and prance around for the few pennies thrown my way. I found in cabaret all that I had wanted. The song and story and satire and lust I had long looked for as a writer and a performer struggling to find a place for my voice. I found something fresh and exquisite and personal. Not forgetting the flash and flourish of all the films of my youth nor the glamour of all the musicals and the pathos of all the plays and books. I found it all in cabaret. I found it, somewhat, unexpectedly.
It starts in my gut. Then come words. Then come stories. Some of them messy. Some of them absurd. Some of them impossible. Some of them splendid. All of them my own… sort of. I lock my self away at times. I run until my lungs are fit to burst. I call friends and beg them for help. I don't eat. I avoid the sun. I yell at waiters. I abuse other artists and squeeze them for all they are worth. I read and I read and I read and I get Thai massages. I buy sequin skirts and mountains of velvet and spiced rum and swim in music of the broken and the bleeding. Somewhere in the quiet sleep of the aftermath… somewhere do I intake and exhale a song.
I often see work that is really really bad, that pushes and pokes and screams at the finish line but never quite makes it, that sails a rough sea in a self-made storm; I'm left begging for better things of the artist and better things of myself.
What I want to see is work that is really really good, that sails gracefully over me and pulls laughter and tears from an otherwise harsh shell; work that moves me even if ever so slightly, where my imagination or spirit may surrender to colours and sounds, though recogniseable at first, are layered and loved in new ways.
I want romance in the theatre. I want words that ballet over me and melodies that I cannot shake from my spirit. I want it all.
I ask of my audiences to imagine… to wonder:
“Wonder… where this is going. What are you wondering right now? Somebody?! Anybody!! … … Nothing. You’re not wondering anything at all? “Have I wasted my twenty bucks on this shit?!” Well f*#! me… most people waste their whole lives, what’s an hour on a little song and dance… in the grand scheme of things… Where would we be without wonder? Without wonder Mozart wouldn’t have practiced so hard as a child… without wonder steel birds wouldn’t carry us across the sky… without wonder Keats wouldn’t have written a single word… Armstrong would never‘ve walked the stars, Romeo’d never‘ve met Juliet… without wonder we wouldn’t know the sweetness of wine or ice-cream or that ever so simple pleasure of slipping naked into a warm bath… without wonder you wouldn’t be here… in my hands, for this hour. ”