The party's over ... 'til the next one
The rainbow banners have come down – and so has the rest of Gay Sydney. Phil Scott recounts his top Mardi Gras moments of the year.
Is there anything duller than Tuesday after Mardi Gras? Here I am looking out the window at the same grey cloudsbut now it feels like autumn. Once Mardi Gras’s over, summer is history. It turns out life is not one long party after all. It was a great season while it lasted. I had a wonderful time – though I know some people didn’t. My Mardi Gras activities started way before the big weekend. I don’t like to write about my work but our editor encouraged me, so blame him.
First, I had the pleasure to work on Stephen Colyer’s production of Harvey Fierstein’s Torch Song Trilogy at the Darlo. A gay play from the pre-AIDS era, it dealt with issues of identity, acceptance and gay families that are central to our agenda so it felt surprisingly current. The only things that dated it were telephones fixed to the wall, and characters listening to a radio instead of a download. I arranged music for three of the talented actors who also sang and played instruments: Belinda Wollaston, Thom Jordan and Mathew Verevis. Stephen asked for some tricky stuff: a mash-up of the jazz standard ‘What’s New?’ with Pink’s ‘I Don’t Believe You’, and a strict, three-voice fugue on the theme of the song ‘The Man that Got Away’. (A fugue is... oh hell, just Google it!) This was one of those shows where it all worked. It ran just under four hours and felt like forty minutes.
A trio of one-offs was a thrill too. I co-hosted Kylie Covergirl at Slide, where an assortment of artists performed Kylie covers. A favourite was diver Matt Mitcham (vocals and ukulele) accompanied by DJ Dan Murphy on melodica. When they struck up ‘Locomotion’ as a finale, Matt stripped down to his stylish little Speedos and half-mooned the crowd.
I didn’t repeat his trick two nights later in my set at Showqueen, because I wanted the audience to stay till the end. But I did get to sing a duet with iOTA! On the basis of that gig I’m now booked to do a solo show at the Adelaide Cabaret Festival in June, which I’m calling Cabaret Survivor because it’s thirty years since I did my first one. (I got amazing reviews back then: “Precocious Four Year Old Child Does Solo Cabaret”.)
Then there was Bob Downe’s All Star Mardi Gras Roast at Carriageworks. A bunch of comedians, including me, ridiculed Mark Trevorrow’s alter ego (ego’s the word!) – the man who “put the concentration back into camp”. Wendy Harmer, Queenie van de Zandt, Cindy Pastel, Scott Brennan (who played my lover on TV once) and Trevor Ashley (who didn’t) were at the top of their game, plus we had the wonderful Jane Markey as Bob’s mum Ida Downe. She snapped at Wendy Harmer: “Your name’s Wendy!? A woman of your age?” Surprise hit of the night was Gretel Killeen. Many people only know Gretel from her Big Brother hosting days, but she does hilarious ‘character’ stand-up. That single night raised over $30K for ACON.
There’s no question you get more out of Mardi Gras if you take part. You might wish to support the queer community, or you might think there’s no such thing but want to have fun with interesting people. Whatever. It’s a last colourful splash before the drab new year takes hold.
[Image] Fun times … Phil Scott (second from right) with, from left, Scott Brennan, Wendy Harmer, Gretel Killeen and Queenie van de Zandt at Bob Downe’s All Star Mardi Gras Roast. Photo: Courtesy Mark Trevorrow