Fresh from his win at Adelaide Fringe with the Emerging Artist Weekly Award, Damien Warren-Smith is bringing his physical comedy and clowning to Melbourne with Garry Starr - Performs Everything, where misunderstood actor Garry Starr...well...performs everything. In less than 50 minutes, Garry will perform every single genre of theatre to prove his talents to himself, his adoring fans and to those who dare question his ability.
"Garry never quite made it as a Shakespearean actor," Warren-Smith explains. "He worked for the Royal Shakespeare Company as an usher for a very long time, hoping this would be a way in. When that didn't work out, he started a company called the Royal Shakespeare Collective so he could tell people he worked for the RSC. He’s not great to work with though. He's high status but low in intelligence, so he might actually do well in politics."
While Warren-Smith has been performing as Garry for a number of years, he has only recently begun placing him front and centre in solo shows. "Garry was the frontman of clown troupe A Plague of Idiots which I started with some fellow graduates of École Philippe Gaulier, but I first started performing him solo about a year ago in Berlin when Marcel Lucont offered me a spot at Cabaret Fantastique," he recalls. "To be honest, I didn't think he’d be funny without the other Idiots but people really took to him. Once Garry emerged there was no stopping him!"
The concept behind the show was simply conceived, however its execution came with some difficult choices being made. "Having worked quite a bit as a theatre actor and studied clowning I wanted to bring these two worlds together with Garry Starr - Performs Everything, but really I just started listing genres and deliberately misinterpreting them," Warren-Smith tells me.
"The biggest challenge I faced was whittling it down to the final
fourteen. I cover some obvious ones like classical theatre, physical
theatre, ballet and farce but some more obscure ones like butoh and
cirque nouveau make an appearance as well."
It was during his time in Europe that Warren-Smith found his love of clowning and eventually enrolled in renowned clown school, École Philippe Gaulier. "I
got a bit bored with acting but found clowning to be really challenging. More than anything I just wanted to create my own work and I don't have
the patience to write so I would prefer to get up and start playing," he says.
"London is a huge clown hub so while it's a good place to play, it's not always easy to find an audience. Berlin on the other hand is the best place to create work because the cost of living is
low and you can generally find an audience (of expats) most nights. The
fringe circuit in Australia though is great and Australian clowns and comedians are
killing it in Europe at the moment."
Warren-Smith is now riding his own clown high with the festival circuit in Australia. His show had its world premiere at Adeaide Fringe where it has received rave reviews and nabbed Warren-Smith quite a bit of recognition. However, even he admits that Garry Starr - Performs Everything is still a work in progress and evolving with every performance. "I
felt it was ready for an audience right from the first preview but I
still don't think it's even close to complete," he says. "Every day I'm tweaking
bits, rewriting sections or adding new props. It’ll be a different show
by the end of the Melbourne International Comedy Festival. Fortunately, Garry can
pretty much handle anything that may go wrong so I don't really get nervous playing him."
1. My favourite board game is Cards Against Humanity even though it's not really a board game, because I’m a terrible person.
2. Which movie would you like to see turned into a musical and why?
Requiem For A Dream. Because I’m a terrible person.
3. Which one person would you love to come to your show and why?
I recently found out there is a guy called Gary Starr who produces pantomimes in Skegness. I really want to meet him!
4. I will try to keep sane during MICF by not reading reviews.
5. Why did the chicken cross the road?
To read a review.
Venue: Malthouse Theatre, 113 Sturt Street, Southbank
Season: 10 - 22 April | Tues - Sat 6.00pm, Sun 5:00pm
Length: 50 minutes
Tickets: $25 Full | $22 Conc |$20 Tightarse Tuesday and Preview
Bookings: MICF website