SYDNEY: Part stand-up, part story-telling, part dramatic monologue, Brent Thorpe’s new one-man show ruminates on the changing face of both the Inner West and the queer community, writes Garrett Bithell.
A vast capacity for memory and nostalgia is one of our evolutionary benchmarks. An old diary, the house we grew up in, the bar we met our first boyfriends – coming into contact with these little landmines of memory can literally take the air out of our lungs. Brent Thorpe, one of the grand dames of Sydney’s queer community, knows this all too well. He has just hit half a century, and is taking a stroll down memory lane in Too Old For TV, part of this year’s Mardi Gras festival.
“The show is part stand-up, part storytelling and part dramatic monologue – and hopefully very funny and entertaining,” Thorpe tells SX.
“I’ve just turned 50 and I’m reflecting on my life and the changing world around me. I comment on the changing face of Sydney’s Inner West and pay tribute to people who have had a huge impact on my life: performers like Reg Livermore, Michael Matou, Doris Fish and Joylene Hairmouth. It’s a fun night out and I hope a heartfelt celebration of some of the history of the GLBTQ scene in Sydney. As best as I can remember it, anyway!”
The show’s first incarnation was a one-man play titled The Ballad of the Suburban Shirtlifter, which Thorpe developed after being awarded a grant from Marrickville Council. “Too Old For TV is a very, very condensed version of that piece, with a lot of jokes added,” he says. “When I was in my late-40s I began to get very interested in the diversity in my family’s history: convicts on my Dad’s side and Russian Jews on my Mother’s! And we’ve always lived in Marrickville – in the same street, in the same house! I’ve seen it all change a lot over the last fifty years and I wanted to talk about that.”
But the show is also an elegy to the gay community in the 70s and 80s. “I also wanted to talk about how life was back then, and what it was like to deal with HIV/AIDS and watching your friends die around you. It’s easy to forget all that.”
However Thorpe is not one of those old gays bemoaning the current state of the community. “I think it’s amazing,” he says. “I think we’re a pretty incredible, diverse group and we can make shit happen. We go from strength to strength. I miss the grittiness and sexiness and rawness of bars and clubs like Pete’s Beat, French’s, Stranded and the Manzil Room. But those places were of their time. I don’t think we can get that back which, in hindsight, is probably a good thing! But I’m having a great time talking about them."
[Image] Too Old for TV ... Brent Thorpe.
Too Old For TV, The Lybrary Bar (formerly The Shannon Hotel, 87-91 Abercrombie Street, Chippendale), February 15 – 22. Tickets from www.moshtix.com.au.