Entertainment Hive 2017

Eddie Perfect blazes his own artistic trail

By Honey B

Growing up in Mentone, Victoria might have been more about sport than entertainment but one of our brightest entertainers grew up in the idyllic beachside suburb – Eddie Perfect. For the 2015 Adelaide Cabaret Festival, Perfect deconstructs the place where he grew up as he explores what it means not to belong, to leave and how it hurts to go back in his contemporary song- cycle, Songs From The Middle (June 18 & 20). Perfect says the show is really: “A love/hate letter to a very suburban place and how I've come to terms with it as I've grown up, moved away and had children of my own.’’ Find out more about Songs From The Middle below. Why did you have this burning desire to get out of Mentone so badly? “Mentone was incredibly nice. Nice people, safe neighbourhood, schools nearby, the beach; it was kind of ideal, in terms of being a great place for a childhood. “But as I became I teenager I wasn't interested in the culture of the place, which was mainly sport. Mentone didn't seem like a place where anything creative or artistic would, or could, ever happen. “I wanted to pierce my nose, wear loud trousers, be a bohemian, I guess. I didn't find my people until I left in 1996 to study Fine Arts at RMIT.’’ Will audience members feel like they have been transported back to Mentone? “I think the best I can hope is that the audience are transported to a place of memory. “You don't need to know Mentone, you just have to have come from somewhere. “This piece is about how life can and does happen in abundance in any place, no matter how romance-free it appears on the surface. I don't find food-courts particularly romantic, but love, death, success, failure, humiliation, personal epiphanies... they happen every day in food courts if you look closely. “The show is about why some people fit in and never leave, while others get itchy and have to flee. It's really a love/hate letter to a very suburban place and how I've come to terms with it as I've grown up, moved away and had children of my own.’’ Looking back, what would you say to your younger Mentone self to ease the teenage frustrations? “I wouldn't say anything. I had plenty of very supportive adults say to me "you'll get there", but I always thought "how do you know?". “Of course, they don't know. It's irritating because at any point I could have given up, not taken any risks, spent all my time and money on drugs and partying and I wouldn't have ended up anywhere. “The frustration, for me, came from seeing where I wanted to be and having to deal with not being there yet. In many respects, that feeling hasn't ever left.’’ When did you know that you wanted to be an artist/performer? “Quite late. I knew I wanted to perform when I was studying classical voice at The University Of Melbourne Conservatorium, which is why I had to get out of that course. “There were just too few performance opportunities, and the culture of that place ruled by fear. “When I dropped out and went to the West Australian Academy Of Performing Arts I discovered that I wanted to be an artist. I wanted to compose. I wanted to write. “Ironically, even though I'd studied fine arts, I didn't know what an artist was. But I had incredible lecturers and teachers who showed me that a life in the performing arts was more than just standing on stage and having folks clap you. It's about making work and participating in a cultural conversation.’’ You've previously said that you "admire'' Barry Humphries is it a performer's dream to have him as Adelaide Festival artistic director? “Of course! Barry is a hero of mine because, aside from his searing and brilliant work, he forged a path that was all his own. “Creatively, he hacked a trail through the jungle that others behind him could use. He's a door opener, a creative genius, and isn't afraid to challenge and confront his audience.’’ Not only have you had a fantastic role in Offspring, you are now a Play School presenter - how does that feel? “I can honestly say it's the only gig I've ever had that is 100 per cent lovely. “Everything about it is a total delight; the making of it, the end result of it. I get to be a part of a new generation of Australian childrens' childhoods and it's something that I find unspeakably lovely and a huge responsibility.’’ Your two little girls will be able to watch you on Play School - that must be wonderful! “They're pretty non-plussed, it has to be said. My five year old is getting a bit of cred at school but I'm hoping it stays a positive thing, and not something that puts unwanted attention onto her. “It's important to me that my kids get to be their own human beings. I worry that having a visible Dad makes that a little harder.’’ How does it feel to go back to Mentone now? “Not great. I'm no good at going backwards. I have to keep my eyes on the road ahead, lest I fall into a pit of nostalgia or bitterness. “It was fine. It was a childhood, and it was a good one. I don't have any regrets or lingering resentments. It was what it was; just a place where lives are lived. “But I don't feel the urge to go back there. In writing Songs From The Middle, I reached a place of peace with sleepy old Mentone.’’ Eddie Perfect’s Songs From The Middle, Adelaide Cabaret Festival, Dunstan Playhouse, 18 & 20 June. Bookings: BASS 131 246
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