Tuesday 12 September 2023

Kaine Hansen on reshaping Australian history one queer icon at a time (Melbourne Fringe Festival)

There aren't many Australians who are not familiar with the expression "such is the queer life". These were the final words sung by Australian bushranger Ned Kelly before he was hung for the murder of three police officers in 1878. Not aware with this piece of Australian history? Well writer and director Kaine Hansen will fill you in with the Melbourne Fringe Festival show, Ned Kelly: the Big Gay Musical.

The first question I ask Hansen is not why a gay Ned Kelly, but why a gay Ned Kelly musical? "I'm a huge lover of Australian history but have always found the mythos around Ned Kelly is such a blokey one. I wanted to rebel and make the Kelly Gang queer, it felt dangerous and exciting and a lot of fun," he explains. "When I was thinking of a new show to write the name Ned Kelly The Big Gay Musical popped into my head. I thought it was the funniest thing I had ever heard and knew it would be the perfect time to expand from my solo musical comedy shows to a full scale production of Australia's new queer icon!"

While the show lived inside Hansen's head for months, one thing he knew instantly was that the Kelly Gang would not be played by males. "Right from the get-go it was really important to me to have gender queer, non-binary and female performers in this. The Ned Kelly story is so saturated by Australian masculinity and hetero culture, so I wanted to examine this through drag," he says. "Drag allows us to explore gender in such a fun, light hearted way. It can be sexy, naughty and a celebration of the gender being performed. I was also sick of seeing musicals with female roles that sucked for the performers playing them, it was nice to write kick-ass characters knowing that the roles were only for gender queer and female actors."

It wasn't just a script that Hansen was writing for gender queer and female actors, but the music too. It was a process where they each took turns in influencing and guiding the other. "When I finally started putting words to the page it all happened quite quickly. Sometimes the songs influenced the scene or a scene would scream for a new musical interlude. My favourite song is "Bushpig Versus The Patriarchy", it reeks of Black Sabbath, King Gizzard and The B52's. It's the show's climax, which ends with the Kelly Gang becoming a mighty morphing Bush Pig to defeat The Patriarchy. Who said concepts can't be the ultimate villain?"

Ned Kelly: the Big Gay Musical had a successful run at this year's Melbourne International Comedy Festival and being able to re-stage it has given the cast and crew the opportunity for a bigger and better production. "It is an honour to put it on again. So many new works die after one season," he says. "Doing it again has given me a chance to cut out a few lines that didn't work, tighten up the show, and add a few more musical interludes. We had our first rehearsal recently and it was like coming back to a long lost family, I didn't realise how much I missed these people, it immediately divulged into belly laughter and people spinning each other around on the floor!"

Apart from writing and directing, Hansen is also a comedian and musician, the latter of which is put to the test with Ned Kelly: the Big Gay Musical, where he is part of the band, but asking him to choose which he prefers is like asking a parent to pick their favourite child. "I love them all! That's why I write musical comedies. The past 10 years have seen me play in tons of bands, make theatre, write sketch and perform as an actor," he tells me. "Writing musical comedies allows me to put all of my skills to use, seeing the worlds collide is exciting and I hope to be exploring how these world's combine for the rest of my artistic career."

1) My favourite meal is gnocchi.
2) A TV show I would like to be cast in is I Think You Should Leave with Tim Robinson, it's the best sketch show ever and I could quote almost the entire thing Triples is best.
3) A little known skill I have is staying up late when i should have gone to bed hours ago.
4) My proudest professional moment is doing this show <3.
5) Happiness is overrated. Peace is where it's at.

Show Details

Venue: Trades Hall, Cnr Lygon & Victoria Sts, Carlton
Season: 11 - 15 and 20 October | 9:30pm, Sun 8:30pm, Friday 20th 11:00pm
Duration: 65 minutes
Tickets: $32 Full | $26 Concession | $28 Preview
Bookings: Melbourne Fringe Festival

Image Credit: Liv Morison

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