Geraldine Quinn is the creative force behind some of Melbourne's most successful rock/cabaret/comedy shows of the last few years. If you missed her award winning shows You're the Voice and Last Gig In Melbourne, you, erm, probably missed them. But you still have the chance to catch her world premiere production Stranger at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival.

Quinn says Stranger is her Ziggy Stardust story, a rise and fall story, a story about The Other. Expect something different, something dazzling. And be part of the show by phoning in and fessing up an anonymous confession or apology which will become part of a soundscape for the show. Details at the end of this story.

Geraldine QuinnWhat were you doing immediately prior to sitting down to answer these questions?
Spruiking the Adelaide run of my 2011 show on various Twitter/Facebook feeds. Also known as “procrastinating writing a new song which I really need to get done.”

Do you enjoy talking about you or is it a necessary evil leading up to the opening of a new show?
I don’t think talking about the show is necessarily talking about yourself, though, because most artists make work as a gift and an expression, and as an attempt to connect, not as a slobbering ego drive. Though a slobbering ego can probably occasionally be useful. I wouldn’t know.

Your previous couple of shows have done pretty well. When creating a new show do you bear their success in mind with an aim to surpassing it, or do you put them out of your mind and just get on with creating the new one?
I think I try to forget about the last shows doing okay – because it’s too tempting to try to recreate it, when in my heart I want to extend myself, and do something new which will push me further. If everyone’s doing variations of corset-n-wig, Weimar-influenced cabaret (WHICH IS FINE), I want to see if I can make something that is a bit different to the scene, and to what I’ve already done.

You're one of those annoyingly amazing, multi-strand creative types – writer, singer, comedian, musician etc etc etc etc... which part of it all do you enjoy most?
The most flattering question phrasing EVER! I’m a singer/songwriter first. Always. Songwriting can be mighty painful as a process though, sometime you just want to do someone else’s words. Feel free to cast me in something, Malthouse. Seriously.

Is there any of it that you struggle with at all?
Writer’s block is horrible! Horrible! Horrible! I get quite isolated when I am writing, more than usual, so I could have weeks where I haven’t been able to talk to another human. And I struggle with various people’s expectations of what they think you are/should be, rather than taking each piece as it comes for what it is. And this show’s going to be very different to previous shows – an extension, not a repeat of You’re the Voice or Shut Up & Sing. Because I want to play with styles of music you might hear in film or theatre more than a whacky, zany, kooky, madcap, camp (madcamp? That should SO be a word) cabaret style show. And why not? That’s how new things are found out and boundaries get pushed. I love artists who take mad risks with their work. If you can risk not pleasing everyone, you can find the most wonderful, loyal audience of all.

How does the everyday you compare to the you we see on stage? Same thing or different? If different, to what degree? And in what ways? And also if different, do either of the different yous ever surprise the other you with what they do in their respective worlds? (If your answer was that you are exactly the same, this was probably the most redundant line of questioning ever. Sorry about that).
Generally, onstage Geraldine is a heightened me on a good day. There’s a lot of darkness in this soul though. I’m fundamentally solitary and isolated, and quite stay-at-home. Then I get lonely and try to call people up. Plus I camp it up a fair bit. It becomes a sort of character you play on stage.

So. Stranger. What can you tell us about it?
It has words. Music. It’s new. It’s quite different. This is my Ziggy Stardust show, and I really wanted to play with the idea of being my own alter ego, and yet myself. Let’s you realy f*** about with what’s real and what isn’t. I want you to walk into the Stranger’s world for an hour, let yourself go.

What are some of the real life references/inspirations contained within?
I’ve got some pretty broad subjects in there. We’re talking about someone who is ‘other’ trying to work out how people interact with each other and completely misunderstanding the rip tides underneath. That said, I think I have exorcised the demons of recently having to go away for the weekend with my entire family for mum and dad’s 50th wedding anniversary…in three minutes. And it’s a catchy tune!

The publicity shot along with the press release give the impression that it might be a little more earnest or arty than we might expect. Is this an accurate impression or is it completely off the mark?
Everything I do is earnest, and everything I do is arty. Only the ratio of genital references changes. Just expect the same song-writing, but with some different styles, more of a story, a new world, and the same vocal work and mental costumes. Perhaps with a bit less high camp. But not much less. It IS me, after all.

As well as comedy, your shows do explore different issues. What are the themes you look at in Stranger?
As I said before, it’s a character which is me/not me, and ‘other’. Just as most of us feel at some point in our lives like we constantly get things wrong, read situations incorrectly, put our foot in it, can’t work out the world or society, or just feel like you don’t fit in anywhere – in that way the Stranger is everyone. And in not quite being myself, I can get away with a lot more…

How has the show been going down with audiences in recent performances?
Oh, it’s debuting in MICF. World premiere.

Oops... second time I've missed the world premiere bit in one week. Moving right along... I'm intrigued by the anonymous confessions part of the show. What can you tell us about that?
You will have to leave a message for the Stranger and come to the show to find out. Basically I want to look at how much we don’t say. Not that there is anything wrong with that, but that we so often leave a lot unsaid, sometimes for good, sometimes for ill.

I want to call the number and make my own confession but I'm not sure which one it should be. Should I go with a funny/embarrassing one, or one that would shake the world of the person I was confessing to (if they knew it was me)?
Either! They will never know it was you!

If you were to make an anonymous confession of your own, what would it be?
No longer anonymous, given it would be appearing in this article with my name attached to it.

It was worth a try. Okay, finally, a line or a verse from Stranger that you think captures the essence of the show?
“This miniature transaction of the heart
For just a second is
The loveliest thing there is”

Or, if that’s not funny enough:

“That’s the family way
One minute they are witty and charming
Then two minutes later, someone is self-harming”

Which is my favourite line so far! It was a rough weekend…

Phone (03) 9005 7471 to make your anonymous confession or apology or thing unsaid that you wish you had said.

Geraldine Quinn

Venue: Trades Hall (The Annexe)
Dates: 28 March – 21 April (not Mondays, no show Wednesday 17 April), Preview 28 March
Tickets: $22/18. Group (6+) & Laugh Pack $18. Tightarse Tuesday & Preview $15
Times: 08:15pm (07:15pm Sundays)
Bookings: | call 1300 660 013

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