Geraldine Quinn returns to the Melbourne International Comedy Festival with her brand new cabaret show, Queen Bitch. Quinn will truly be making lemons out of lemonade as she takes a look at her life over the last two years and comes to some realisations on how to cope when the going gets tough and that perhaps there is a light at the end of the tunnel but not in the way most people might realise.
"2016-17 for me was a pretty magnificent string of bad things happening. I ended up in hospital after a ridiculously small accident, my rental property flooded in minutes during a freak storm, I moved back out to the South-East suburbs which I'd been trying to escape for decades, gosh, SO much more happened - and then I got my dog, which weirdly wouldn't have happened without all the other nonsense," Quinn explains. "Queen Bitch is basically a show about trying not to be scared so much, because people are there for you more than you think, even when you feel very alone. As
I developed the show, I realised the 'light' is everywhere, in weird
corners, and some sort of light is always somewhere, you just have to
turn around in the cave and squint a bit. Writing Queen Bitch made me
realise how scared I have been to just live my life, and also how many
people will help when you really need it."
Being a fellow dog lover, I was interested to know why, despite everything that was going on in her life, Quinn decided that this was the right time to buy a dog and how this experience has changed her life? "What? You want me to talk about my dog? Oh, I couldn't possibly, I mean, who on earth would find that intere- OH IF YOU INSIST!!! Her name is Capability Brown (or Bill for short), named after the 18th century landscape gardener (she digs a lot). She has Pointer, Bull Arab, Irish Wolfhound and probably Greyhound and Deerhound in her. Easiest to call her a Staghound. Tall, skinny, sensitive and has the focus of a hyperactive toddler," she tells me. "I said to myself 'this could be a mad idea, but I will just ring the seller and if I get along with her, I will at least meet the dog'. And nine days later she was in my tiny house. When I picked her up she had fleas, a bald patch on her leg from a tussle with some barbed wire, and was the most timid creature you ever saw."
"It took months to get her confidence up and now she's a big foolish ratbag. It was the first bit of control I felt I had over my own life for so, so long. You have so little control over whether you have a partner/place to live/job/functioning familial relationships/money/a sustainable arts career, but I could do this one thing and take the consequences of that decision. Because it was MY decision."
Even with her ratbag attitude, Bill has proven to be most supportive in Quinn's writing process for this show, where without her, this show might never have come to fruition. "When it comes to creating a show, the
bones are most important to me first of all - being sure of the
message, the heart of it, and having a strong structure. I had so many
crappy things happen over the last 18 months that fellow performers kept
saying 'that's a show', but I wasn't convinced it really was
enough. Committing to a dog tied all those unfortunate events
together, gave it a focus and an ending. Without that string of bad
luck, I wouldn't have been in a position to get her."
Quinn has been a performer for well over a decade, winning the Golden Gibbo at the 2011 Melbourne International Comedy Festival and won numerous Green Room Awards on top of her 18 nominations since 2005. With such an illustrious career one would struggle to consistently come up with original and engaging shows, however, a fortunate encounter with Donald Sinden provided Quinn with the inspiration she needs to keep making work. "When
I was still trying to be a straight actor, I saw John Barton's The
Hollow Crown starring Diana Rigg, Ian Richardson, Derek Jacobi and
Donald Sinden. At stage door, I gave Donald a thank you
letter to the cast, and because he was a bloody gentleman, he wrote back
to me (I'd put my address on the letter). I'll never forget one thing
he wrote: 'Find your point of difference'. No one will ever do as good a
job of being you and telling your stories than yourself. So as long as
you think you have something to say, and the passion to say it, find
your audience, even if they are niche or small. Don't be like everyone
else. That's deathly boring."
Which is also a similar piece of advice that Quinn would tell her past self if she was gearing up for her first professional performance again. "You can sing. You can write. Pick up the guitar earlier and more often. Don't worry about anyone else. Just tell a story and enjoy what other people are doing too. And also, you actually look fine. Wait until your knees and your metabolism conk out in 30 years, then you'll realise you spent too long worrying about something that was nothing because you were twisted by other people's opinions,' she says. "And you'll still look fine after those 30 years. Oh - and listen to drag queens. They will enrich your life."
And some further good advice for you, is to book your tickets to Queen Bitch, because if Quinn's track record has proven anything, it's that this is going to be another brilliant show.
1. My favourite board game is Scattegories because I love lists and language and putting things in order (just don't look at my tax receipts for evidence).
2. Which movie would you like to see turned into a musical and why?
Bedazzled (1967). It's a recognisable Occidental trope - Faustian pacts are always a winner because audiences love knowing what's probably gonna happen, and then you get to mess with it. If only Peter Cook and Dudley Moore were around to adapt it like Mel Brooks did with The Producers, that would have killed. Just don't watch the remake. I mean Brendan Fraser is underrated as an actor, and props to them for gender cross casting (who says what gender identity The Devil is anyway?), but it's not a patch on the original.
3. Which one person would you love to come to your show and why?
I'm lucky so many people I've got to work with are great and most of them have seen me do at least one show in the last 13 years. I'm always happy to see performers in the audience. I know how hard it is to get to shows. I don't care who is there, as long as I'm doing my job well and you're enjoying yourself.
Also Olivia Newton-John...for this particular show. No more clues.
4. I will try to keep sane during MICF by going home and sleeping whenever possible. SLEEP IS GREAT. And don't go out and shout in bars then send all the singers panicky Facebook messages mid-Festival asking for voice-saving tips! My tip from the start is no shouting, and MUCH SLEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEP!!
5. Why did the chicken cross the road?
To get the hell away from my giant horse dog who flings her 23kg of puppy weight (you read that right, 23 kg and 9 months old) at everything that moves on every single walk because she is a maniac playing machine who loves EVERYTHING AND EVERYONE. But she'll learn. She'll get there. Her heart's good. And she's only going to be as good a dog as I am an owner.
Venue: Malthouse Theatre, 113 Sturt Street, Southbank
Season: 10 - 22 April | Tues - Sat 8.30pm, Sun 7:30pm
Length: 60 minutes
Tickets: $28 Full | $23 Conc |$20 Tightarse Tuesday and Preview
Bookings: MICF website
Photo Credit: Sarah Walker