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Sunday 11 October 2015

Q&A with Aussie's King of Cabaret

Posted in: Performance
By Jacqui Stanford - 31st August 2015

Australia’s King of Cabaret Paul Capsis is winging his way to Auckland this week for two shows. He tells that yes, his first agent did say being a ‘wog’ and gay would limit his career, and offers some advice for young gay performers.


Did your first agent really tell you you’d find little work because you were a ‘wog’ and gay?! How have you disproved that?

Unfortunately that first agent did say that to me and it was on my first day with the agency too. Needless to say I’m not with said agent any more. I refused to believe it, not for one minute, not for a second. I set out to change that conception and to a small degree I have. Sadly there is still some truth to that. Like I said it has never stopped me doing what I love to do and it’s a privilege and honour to sing and perform for people.

What can people expect from your Auckland shows? Whose work might you cover?

I will do a song I wrote myself and a lot of my current favourite songs. Tunes from Janis Joplin, Patti Smith, The Doors, Eurythmics, Amy Winehouse, Lou Reed etc etc................ don’t want to give it all away just yet. I haven't played Auckland in many a year now. Can’t wait to get back there.....lots of fun is to be expected...... and that’s from the audience too.... very excited to be working with Alistair Spence on piano and we are picking up local Auckland musicians to play for the gigs. Yippee!!!

What draws your artists and makes you want to honour their work in your own shows?

I only ever perform artists’ work that I have a deep connection to. I have to find my own personal take on it and them.

It really starts and finishes with the lyrics. Its lyric driven, vibe driven, passion driven..... Also, it’s only artist that I worship.

Even though most of them have passed, I have an intense need to remember them, to honour their spirits. It’s a kind of channelling.

You perform across many disciplines in the arts world, is live cabaret your favourite?

Live Cabaret is right up there for sure, mainly because there are no rules. You can do whatever the hell you like. Whatever turns you on. I like to play with gender in that realm. I enjoy all the disciplines. I dig singing, acting, writing, photography, film...... so on and so on.... art is my religion.

What are you most proud of from your career so far?

I can safely say most of what I have been involved with in the past thirty odd years, I am proud of. I have my absolute favourites of course. Mostly it’s the live stuff. The work with theatre genius director Barrie Kosky. Working with him changed my life. The film HEAD ON, too many great experiences to single out any. The solo play I did about my beloved Maltese Maternal grandmother, ANGELA'S KITCHEN is a huge stand out. Playing New York recently was incredible, playing Broadway this year too was amazeballs.

Any advice for up-and-coming gay performers?

Don’t let the fact you’re a living breathing homosexual ever stop you from doing anything- ever. Go for it. Look after yourself. Keep yourself well, work hard, be focused, don’t drink too much or do drugs, get plenty of sleep eat properly and try and have a job that pay the bills, before the real job takes off.

On a side note - what do you make of the marriage equality debate in Australia, and the chain dragging that’s going on?

Our current government is adamant in keeping Australia in the good old 1950's. On many fronts. Personally I never wanted the straight person’s marriage. I like being different. I have come to embrace that difference. After all, that is what we fought and died for. Not to be like them. I do understand that times have changed. I can’t believe how backward Australia has become. We have a mean spirited government at the moment not that Labour championed Equality either. I have changed my mind on the issue recently. I think if people want to get married then they should be able to. We deserve the same legal rights as other people in our community enjoy. We make positive contributions. We pay our taxes.

We are not less than anyone. If people want to have babies they should be able to do that too. I personally think there are far too many people in the world and I am pleased I haven't added more to the burden on the planet. Freedom is the most important thing for me. The freedom to love whoever you want to love. Remember, there are still, many folk, in far too many countries, still, that are persecuted and murdered for being born Gay... remember that, don't ever forget them.

AN EVENING WITH THE INCREDIBLE MR CAPSIS is part of the Auckland International Cabaret Season, Thursday 3 and Friday 4 September, 9.15pm, Saturday 5 September, 6.00pm. More here

Jacqui Stanford - 31st August 2015

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