How did the original show A Family Outing come about?
Twenty years ago, after much procrastination, I was finally ready to make my first theatre show. I knew it was going to be autobiographical, and I found myself writing lots of stories about my parents. So then it occurred to me that it would be fun if they actually appeared in the show.
How did your parents feel about being involved?
They said yes immediately and were very enthusiastic from the get go.
What did you discover about them or your relationship during the initial production’s creation and subsequent touring?
I discovered that, in very different ways, they were both very funny on stage. I also discovered that touring with your parents is a bit of a nightmare and reminds you why generally three days with the family at Christmas is more than enough!
What made you revisit the idea so many years later?
I was daydreaming in my office and looked up at the Edinburgh Festival poster of A Family Outing on my wall, and saw that it was 20 years since we made that show. And I started thinking about the passing of time and the things that happen in 20 years and the changes that have taken place and I thought that it would be interesting to revisit the show 20 years later. It’s a simple idea, one that everyone can relate to….. in some ways not unlike the iconic British documentary 7 Up that traces the lives of 14 participants every seven years.
How did you raise the idea of 20 Years On with your mother and what was her response?
I told her and she was thrilled. I filmed the moment when I asked her. It’s quite funny.
How has your relationship with your mother changed since the first production?
In 20 years there are effectively three scenarios to be expected:
- Best case scenario is that you are simply 20 years older, but pretty much the same.
- Worst case scenario is that you have left this mortal coil.
- Mid-case scenario is that you are older and frailer and more vulnerable.
My Mum is the latter, and so needs looking after now.
How has it been creating this updated version of the show without one of the three people in the first production (being your father)?
We have a recording of the original show that we are revisiting a lot in the making of this new show. It is nostalgic and heartwarming to see my Dad on the screen and at the same time sad. That’s life. I just feel lucky to have shared that amazing experience when we did.
You are probably best known for your red hanky cabaret act from La Clique and La Soiree. What are the similarities or differences between the red hanky act and A Family Outing 20 Years On?
I think they are quite different because my magic striptease act ‘Hanky Panky’ is a 5 minute visual cabaret piece and A Family Outing - 20 Years On is a full-length theatre show, delivered mainly through spoken text.
Where they are arguably similar is that they are both very accessible, playful and delivered directly to an audience with no fourth wall.
Your work is extremely personal – visually and emotionally, how does this affect the audiences’ experience and what do you think they come away with?
Sometimes theatre (and art in general) is a form of escapism, or a glimpse into a different world. My work is the opposite. Although it draws on personal experience and autobiography, I think I have always found a way to make the work quite universal, covering universal and accessible themes that are relatable for a wide audience, and connecting them to their own identity and their everyday lives.
How do you reach a point where you are comfortable sharing your brazenly honest work publicly?
I’ve always been a bit of an ‘over-sharer’ in life so I guess that translates into my art as well. Also I always say that you’ve gotta talk about what you know about. And ‘coz I don’t know much about much, I just stick to what I know ... personal experience.
As Perth Festival 2019 Artist-In-Residence, what mark are you hoping to leave on the city of Perth?
As an artist one always hopes to leave a positive mark. Sometimes even negative can be rewarding, if you have provoked some controversy or opposing opinions that create debate. So hey, just to leave a mark is great. And failing that, to have given the audience an hour of engaging, entertaining, funny, thought-provoking and endearing theatre is also more than enough.