Wes Snelling, undoubtedly one of Melbourne’s most awesome cabaret performers is back, and in fine form, bringing his larger than life, booze infused, neurotic and slightly terrifying character Tina Del Twist along for the ride.
Tina was the cherub and comrade to the likes of Judy Garland, Bette Davis, Marilyn Monroe… But she never quite made it to be a household name. Or did she? In Tina’s eyes, she did. Known for her ‘beautiful voice and wicked sense of comic timing’ – The Age Melbourne. Loved by audiences and critics alike, this gin-soaked velvet draped madame has been described as the lovechild of Dame Edna and Amy Winehouse. TAGG spoke with the unlikely pair about Gold Class, which will be taking place at the Melbourne Fringe Festival hub, deep in the bowls of the beloved Arts House…
Introduce us to the work, what’s it called, and why?
Wes: It is Tina del Twist GOLD CLASS. It is a live cabaret concert like being at the cinema, but it’s live. It’s like being at home on the couch but this is in the privacy of your own fringe festival. There are VIP banana lounge seats available (which come with a complimentary wine) and Tina may throw some cheese at you at some point. Tina is a fabulous lush of a woman I produce. She is my Aunt, an alcoholic and a little deluded. I have her here with me now…
Tina: Hello darling, how are you?
Wes: so how would you describe the work Tina?
Tina: Well I sing lots of songs with my wonderful guitarist. I sing songs about.. oh how dull of me I don’t want to talk about the songs I am singing, it takes the fun out of it. Songs are there to be heard and lyrics interpreted via melody. Otherwise they would be poems, or chapters in a novel wouldn’t they, not songs. Come and see the concert and you’ll hear the songs. But they are of the blues and jazz vein. And I tell some jokes and stories you know.
Wes: Does that answer your question?
What drives you as a creative, is it the joy of performance, or the thrill of creating new work?
Wes: Well I will hand that one over to Tina…
Tina: Sorry what was the question? … Oh look, you know what, every time we are creating a new song or show or ‘work’ as you like to call it, I think god this is going to be a fun adventure, and then just before we start the process I have four panic attacks and think this is a bloody awful and anxiety ridden experience, why have I put myself in this position? Then I think it’s alright, once we get to the performance that is when the fun starts, it will all be ok, and then you get to the night of the performance and you are about to go on stage, you have four panic attacks and think this is a bloody awful and anxiety ridden experience, why have I put myself in this position? Then I think it’s alright, once we get to the end of the show and the applause arrives it will be worth it. Then you get to the end walk offstage and wonder if anyone actually liked it and you have four panic attacks and think this is a bloody awful and anxiety ridden experience, why have I put myself in this position? Then I think it’s alright, once we get paid you know, and then you realise the show was a fundraiser for a shed that needs to built somewhere in Nunawading to house a lawn mower, and so you go home and cry yourself to sleep. But to answer your question, what drives me as a creative is Gin.
Wes: What Tina is trying to say is that she really enjoys the entire process but most of all loves engaging with her audience.
What should audiences expect musically, and where drawn inspiration from when creating the work?
Tina: What should audiences expect musically? Songs darling.
Wes: Tina be nice. So, I know working with Tina on this there are quite a few original acoustic songs that are folky, bluesy, jazzy.
Tina: Let me talk Wes darling you sound like a dickhead. So there are quite a few original acoustic songs that are folky, bluesy, jazzy. The only time we choose to do a cover song is if we think we bring something new to it. There is no point just covering a song because you love the original, it has to also fit the context. Otherwise it’s karaoke. So we do songs by Led Zeppelin, Jefferson Airplane, songs that I grew up with and a lot of Australian work too but the lyrics have to make sense and be relevant to me. For example I wouldn’t do a song like Baa Baa Black Sheep because I am not a sheep, and I am not a fan of children so what’s the point? We do a song by that wonderful man Michael Hutchence, Devil Inside. I spent a lot of time with him back in the day. He taught me how to be sexual. But to answer your question, I draw inspiration from wine. And valium. At the same time.
Why do you think Tina Del Twist is still as popular, or perhaps notorious as ever?
Wes: I’ll take this one, Tina has just drifted off.
She is persistent! Ha! Tina is a talented alcoholic who once was a starlet but she is now living on the other side of that and is completely deluded that the stardom has ceased. There is an underlying darkness and tragedy to this that she doesn’t harp on about. In some ways everyone has or knows of an Aunt Tina. Not necessarily one that sings but certainly that Aunt who rocks up to xmas smashed and has no filter and takes you out the back for a joint. Her dementia often kicks in and she says whatever she likes. And that is why she is really fun, and why I think audiences can get a kick out of it as she often says things people are thinking but may not feel comfortable saying.
How do you see this performance as standing out from the rest of Melb Fringe this year?
Wes: I will start by saying it is not a competition. I think Melbourne has enough audiences to go and see shows. You still have to work hard to get people there. I think people do go and see more than one show. I would personally like to steer away from the idea that we stand out from each other because it creates a competitive culture, particularly in a fringe festival where I believe one of the main purposes is to nurture all artists involved.
Tina: Oh shut up Wes, this show stands out because it is the best.
What do you hope that audience will walk away with post show, and why?
Wes: I like people leaving a show and asking questions. Specifically, ‘why didn’t we book a banana lounge Gary?’
Tina: There can be a stress when creating a show that there has to be resolution at the end or that you have to leave the audience with one message to take away. I try not to focus on that. This particular show has a lot of light and shade in it and it is much like a mosaic puzzle, in a good way. Over the course of an hour you get presented with all these dots to join in the form of music and anecdotes, and you let them wash over you. Then when you leave all the dots make sense. This is my favorite kind of cabaret.
For more information and to book you tickets click here