Don’t try to be a ‘consumable product’: Minchin warns performers

Tim Minchin has shared the secrets of his success to an intimate audience of performing arts students, ahead of the second show of his BACK tour through Perth, Sydney and St Kilda.

The comedian and singer-songwriter, in Perth on the first stop of his national tour, was at Edith Cowan University’s Spiegeltent on Thursday to accept an honorary doctorate from the WA Academy of Performing Arts, where he earned his Bachelor of Contemporary Music long before becoming a household name.

The new Dr Minchin, flanked by the heads of the university.
The new Dr Minchin, flanked by the heads of the university. CREDIT:STEPHEN HEATH PHOTOGRAPHY

Garbed in doctoral robes and wearing a sheepish grin, after performances in his honour from a full complement of almost frighteningly skilled undergraduate singers and musicians, he said he was “hugely grateful and more than a little embarrassed.”

“There are artists here that just make me feel like the hack that I am,” he said.

Minchin warmed up the crowd with jokes about his free upgrade to the penthouse at Crown Towers – “like an Italian furniture showroom with so many couches that 90 people could comfortably sit in it … built for the purpose of making wankers feel like legends” – but soon got serious.

“If this were a graduation ceremony my role here would be give career advice to the grads,” he said.

“It’s not, but I’m old now, so my role is giving unsolicited advice, like all old white guys.”

He told the young faces turned towards him that being an artist required massive reserves of self-belief.

“Of course, the two years I spent here feeling unbelievably bad about myself was perfect preparation for the next eight years feeling even worse,” he said.

“Wanting to give up, cut my fingers off and feed them to a swan.

“Making coffees and pouring beers to pay my rent … my friends in the acting course all wandering around in black tights shagging each other.”

He said he often got asked for career advice, and it always reminded him of himself during this period.

“I was always thinking, what is the trick?” he said.

“There is no trick … but I will tell you three things that are important.”

Read the rest of this story here on WAtoday

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A Chorus Line (Burswood Theatre), October 26, 2012

IMG_0585One thrilling combination?!?

In a word, no.

Having said this, I really have no specific fault to find with this show. Perhaps it’s a case of something you’ve built up in your mind to be so powerful being inevitably disappointing.

And truly, it was only very slightly disappointing and I’m still trying to put my finger on what it was. Was I secretly hoping Michael Douglas would actually appear onstage? I don’t think so…

The staging was minimalist, as befits a show about the stripped-down, unadorned story behind the scenes.

The dancing was undoubtedly very tight and very slick, and a joy to behold. Cassie’s tortured solo, as she tried to express her frustration with both her impassive ex and her situation, was a powerful bit of dancing, and they did a little something with the lighting that made this part really stand out.

There was plenty of humour, as there should be, and the characters were as fleshed out as they should be in such a dialogue- and character-driven musical.

But with the word musical, I’m inching closer to the source of my dissatisfaction. Because, honestly, there was only a whisper of dissatisfaction. I’m “praising with faint damn”.

It just wasn’t… musical enough. Not one of those vocal solos – and the show is basically all vocal solos – really had my spine tingling. The singers, though certainly competent, just didn’t seem that memorable. Remembering Jemma Rix in Wicked, and how her voice made me want to weep and made my skin prickle even the second time I saw the show, makes me realise that not one of these numbers moved me in the way I wanted.

I waited and waited to hear Nothing, the song Diana sings, and look, it was good, but it just wasn’t great. And the dancing is all well and good, but the singing is what makes you really care about those people, and if you don’t really care, it’s a long time to sit and listen to emotional stuff.

Happily, spine tingles eventually came… One was introduced slowly, almost spookily, and in general given the attention it deserves.

By the time the (damned fine) chorus line finally hit the stage, the Ministry and I started to wiggle in our seats and grin at each other. They did an awesome job on that ending, even down to working the performers’ final bows into it. Just seeing those high kickers strut their stuff made it all worth it, and I grin to remember it.

So, overall, I’m happy.