From Oxford Street to the Opera House – Act III: The curtain call

Ben Nielsen brings AussieTheatre readers an epic three act interview series – From Oxford Street to the Opera House – with Australia’s one and only Paul Capsis. Today we share with you Act III – enjoy!

Act III – The Curtain Call

Paul Capsis is a familiar face at the Adelaide Cabaret Festival, which has become the biggest event of its kind in the world. It was during last year’s Roadshow to the Hong Kong Fringe Club that he formed a friendship with upcoming performer Catherine Alcorn.

Paul Capsis - Little Bird
Paul Capsis – Little Bird

“Paul Capsis, I want you to direct my show!” Alcorn excitedly announced one night.

“Oh Cath, come on” Capsis replied.

As with each of the directorial offers he had previously received, Capsis immediately declined. Alcorn persisted. “No, I’m serious, whatever you can give me, I’d be grateful”.

Nothing But A Song, Alcorn’s show at this year’s Adelaide Cabaret Festival, heralds Capsis’ directorial debut. As he explains, the sudden change of heart was born of an inadvertent creative partnership.

“I was sitting in her show [Go Your Own Way], and afterwards we’d have chats and she’d ask me questions. She’d go ‘what did you think of this, what did you think of that? She trusted me; she made me feel like she really wanted me to do it,” Capsis says. “It’s exciting, my first time as a director. But I mean, really it’s just me helping Cath realise what she wants. It’s not like me saying ‘right Cath, you have to do it like that’.”

As if he wasn’t content to simply recline in the director’s chair, Capsis will also perform at the festival in Little Bird. Although he would deny it, the work was created especially for him, to showcase the talents of an Australian stage legend. 

“As soon as I read it I fell in love with it. But then of course, you go, ‘I’ve got to do that, by myself? Just me and a band?’ I’ve done a few one-man shows now and it’s pretty lonely. But it’s working with all new people, you know, so I’m excited. And even more so now having done Pinocchio because Little Bird is based on a Brothers Grimm, The Juniper Tree, so it’s again a fantasy, fairy-tale.”

The theatre-music piece, written by Nicki Bloom and directed by Geordie Brookman, follows the journey of Wren. From his parents’ isolated cottage to the bright lights of the big city, Wren experiences a series of transformations that blur the distinction between identity, gender and reality.

“It’s daunting, but it’s beautiful. You know, because all the elements come together: the set the sound, the music, the band, the lyrics, the costume and all those elements. But we won’t have any of that for most of the time I’m working with Geordie, so all of this is going to be discovered as we work.”

The creative development of the production began mere hours after this interview and the show opens at the festival in June. Then, just months after the curtain closes at Her Majesty’s Theatre in Adelaide, Capsis will return to Wharf 2 Theatre for Sydney Theatre Company’s Calpurnia Descending

His schedule may seem busy, but to Capsis, it’s luxuriously sparse. After November though, he has nothing planned. So perhaps a well-earned break then? Not a chance. After a three-year hiatus, Capsis yearns to return to the Sydney stage as a singer, and maybe record an album too.

As he finishes the last morsels from his plate, I ask Paul Capsis if he would consider writing a memoir. He thinks a while, and then responds. “I don’t know. I’m a memoir fan, that’s my favourite thing to read,” he says. “But I kind of feel like, am I well known enough to write one? Who would want to read that, you know what I mean?”

Ben Nielsen

Ben Nielsen is an Adelaide based writer. He has contributed to a variety of publications including artsHub, Dandy Magazine, and the Adelaide* magazine.

Ben Nielsen

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