I’m part of an exciting new audio science fiction comedy series called Night Terrace, which is shaping up to be something really special. It stars Jackie Woodburne (Neighbours’ Susan Kennedy), Ben McKenzie and Petra Elliott and we’ve just announced our first guest star, Jane Badler (Diana from classic science-fiction series V). We’re kickstarting the first season, so you can nab the whole 8 episode run for only $25!
Mark Twain once said “God created war so that Americans would learn geography” and this is how I feel about Eurovision. I’d never heard of Azerbaijan before their end-credits-on-an-80s-rom-com number “Running Scared” won in 2011, yet now I can tell you about their location, their exports, their time-zone and even their human rights abuses. They also have one gay man, apparently. And he’s a hairdresser (I wish I was making this up – he was mentioned by an official as a rebuff to the idea the country was homophobic).
Eurovision was, in part, created out of war. In the 1950s the countries of Western Europe were developing television technology and wanted to experiment with multi-country live events, while also hopefully uniting countries that had recently been bombing each other. As it was an international exercise they needed something that transcended spoken language so their first thought was – I kid you not – a circus skills extravaganza! It’s hard to imagine the Eurovision Juggling Contest would be going 50 years later, although it’s nice to think the UK may still have used it as a comeback opportunity for faded artists. Who wouldn’t want to see Bonnie Tyler on a trapeze? Or the members of Blue forming a oddly-shaped human pyramid?
Second choice was singing, and a legend was born. But suffering still infuses through the contest. As Europe has fought, and healed, and changed, Eurovision has been there. Seven countries competed in the first competition in 1956 – thirty-nine in 2013. Our concept of Europe has changed, and Eurovision has changed with it.
And at this year’s Melbourne International Fringe Festival I have a play about it! Co-written with The Bazura Project’s Lee Zachariah, Songs For Europe is two short pieces exploring the Eurovision legacy. In the first half a young journalist comes to interview an aging singer about her nul points performance and gets more than he bargained for; and then in 1974 Portuguese activists gather in a café awaiting the Eurovision song that will trigger the revolution (again, a true story – there’s a Eurovision song that started an uprising. Even Pink can’t claim that).
It has a great cast, including Marta Kaczmarek (The Circuit, Shine, Offspring) and Nick Colla (Neighbours, Blue Heelers, Wicked Science) and has been brilliantly directed by Lucas Testro (Neighbours, Winners & Losers, All Saints). My Splendid Chaps colleagues are all involved too, Ben McKenzie is producing, Petra Elliott is appearing as a Portuguese bar owner – the role she was born to play! – and our tech wizard David Ashton is creating both the sound design and our brand new 1982 Eurovision entry. You can see the whole fabulous cast listed below.
It’s 8 shows only, September 19 – 29, Thursday through Sunday at 7.45pm (6.45pm on the Sundays) at Broken Mirror in Brunswick. I’m really excited about it, and I’d love you to see it. Tickets are on sale now!
So I leave you with the song that started a revolution – Paulo de Carvalho with “E Depois Do Adeus”. And remind you that the real winner here… is music. Au revoir mon Ami!
John Richards explores the very 1970s phenomenon of English sitcoms decamping to Australia. Contains double-entende and cat jokes.
As you’re probably aware, English comedian Ben Elton recently had a high-profile variety show crash and burn on Channel 9. While I do feel people may have taken a little too much glee in its downfall, it’s true Elton made it hard for people to sympathise with him. With his endless tirades about the young people – with their interwebs and the twitter and the hopping and the bopping – he mostly came across as a 24-hour audition for Grumpy Old Men.
And the show itself was fairly dire – horrendously unfunny pieces like Fat Chef competed with the seemingly endless Girl Flat sketches to see which could reach the antithesis of comedy first. It was almost like a mathematical exercise. But as a friend remarked, it would be awful if this show ended up clouding people’s appreciation of Elton‘s bona fide achievements, as a co-writer ofThe Young Ones and the notably better series of Blackadder.
Elton has always had a love of Australia (and Australians, or at least one of them) and word was that he had moved to Western Australia and was making this show as “a local”. But I’ll admit that when I first heard of Live From Planet Earth I wondered if this was a return to the days where we would seemingly let any famous person with an English accent have a TV show simply because they were from “over there”. I’m talking, of course, of the 1970s, when Australian television was awash with English shows in Antipodean clothing.
To be clear, I’m not talking about what we now know as “format rights”, in which a new show is based on the template for another (so The Kumars At Number 42 becomes Greeks On The Roof, for example). And I’m not talking a Very Special Episode in which the cast travel Down Under for a one-off adventure with as many koalas as the budget can manage (such as The Love Boat‘s 1981 feature-length special, “Julie’s Wedding”).
No, these are shows which directly continued the British original, in which the lead character has spontaneously moved to Sydney or Melbourne. It’s effectively the inverse of Neighbours characters moving to Queensland.
For the seventh episode of the Outland Institute Radio Show we were joined by comedian, actor, musician and New Zealander Alan Brough. It was a pleasure to have him in the studio, as we chatted about Spicks & Specks, growing up, acting, terrible stories, and Alan’s pearls of wisdom such as “What day isn’t made better by Haysi Fantayzee?”. You can hear the full interview by downloading it from here, but here are some highlights:
Every time I mentioned you were coming in, people would say “That Alan Brough, I’d like to hug him”. Are you Australia’s most huggable comedian?
I never really thought about it before, but I’m willing to test that out. I do – after I’ve had a couple of glasses of red wine – and anyone who knows me will know that’s very seldom – I do like to hug people. Particularly small people. Just lifting them up, picking them up and holding on to them. Rove McManus is good for that. Not for name-dropping, but he was the first tiny person who sprung to mind. But that area of person. I love to pick them up. Cos they’re helpless. They can struggle all they like, but they’re like a salmon caught in the claw of a bear.
You and Myf Warhurst seem incredibly nice on Spicks & Specks, are you like that in real life?
If this is possible, Myf is even nicer in real life than she is on the telly. It’s quite difficult to understand. I thought it was physically impossible to be nicer than she comes across on the TV, but she is. I, on the other hand, am just sad. And when I’m not sad I’m fuelled with a rage that comes from an incalculable depth.
But that’s comedy, isn’t it? Many comedians seem to be bitter, nasty individuals who hide behind a thin veneer of humour…
My veneer is being redone at the moment, so it’s just pure rage for me.
Everyone on the show – bar me – is genuinely nice, and we do get on extremely well. And to be perfectly honest I don’t see the point in people being awful to each other on the television. You get enough of that in life, from your family, from people on the tram, in bars… I was reading about Masterchef, and someone said what they loved about it was that you wanted these people to be your friends. As opposed to a lot of reality shows where you want to find these people and kill them.