Tommy Bradson’s Sweet Sixteen
Sold out at the Cabaret Festival last year, Tommy Bradson returns to the Fringe with his new show. He spoke to Peter Burdon.
“Adelaide’s been good to me,” says Tommy Bradson, “I got a great start at the Fringe a few years ago now, and then I had the Cabaret Festival last year, now I’m at the Fringe again, and the people have been coming to the show, so I can’t complain.” Bradson’s style sets him well apart. The three shows we’ve had previously in Adelaide have been as remarkable as they’ve been indescribable, and they’ve won him award after award. Last year, it was The Men my Mother Loved was the hook, and there’s a memory of tacky drag a year or two before that! So what are we to make of Sweet Sixteen or the Birthday Party Massacre?
Bradson’s already on the record (in our sister publication CULT) saying the inspiration for the show was an old dress in an op shop. “It looked so lonely, I had to have it,” Tommy says with a laugh, “and it got me thinking about all the things that dress, that sixties dress, had probably seen in its long life. So I created a family to go with it. I play five characters, everyone from a sixteen year old girl to a fifty year old man. It feels completely different from any of the other shows I’ve done, because I’ve always been on my own. You get lonely doing one man shows, you know! But now it feels like I’m on stage with others.” And quite a few others, in fact, because at this party – it’s a birthday party – there are guests. “Yeah,” Tommy says with a laugh, “What’s a party without guests? I thought I’d invite the audience along as well, and during the show we gradually end up with quite a party around the table. It’s doing something that I’ve wanted to do for years, which is to really acknowledge that the audience is there. I feel increasingly strange when the audience is just sitting there staring. The chemistry the artist has with the audience is a great thing, and I know that my shows have a lot of that kind of connection, because I put so much of myself and my own experience into it. So it seemed natural to invite people to come along and it’s been great, people are sitting there eating chips and lollies and cracking a beer.”
Tommy’s appearance is always a show on its own, and in Sweet Sixteen he’s pulled out all the stops. “I’ve got five costumes,” he says, “and there’s everything from heels and old wigs to a fat suit, and everyone who’s seen the show so far reckons it’s pretty memorable!
Tommy Bradson is in the Campanile nightly to 17 March. Book at Fringetix.