Comedian Dawn French couldn’t stop raving about him!
‘Brendan Hay IS showbiz! I just love everything about him. He is unique. I love the fun of him!
Brendan spoke with The Echo ahead of his performance at the Guilty Pleasures cabaret and burlesque festival.
What inspired you to be a performer – and why did you choose cabaret?
I come from a performance family: my grandfather was a vaudeville banjo player and his parents were Tivoli performers. The performance gene skipped a generation, but then my mum was insistent that all of her sons should do everything creative — we all play instruments, dance and sing. I’ve danced since I was four, and sing, and I play the cello and the piano.
My dream was to be a composer but I did one day at the Sydney Conservatorium and hated it – it was so dreary and dry. So instead I went to the Australian Institute of Music and studied musical theatre under Jennifer Murphy. She expanded my mind, and as well as performance. I went into costume and design.
I chose cabaret as I found musical theatre too binding and you had to fit yourself into someone else’s little box. With cabaret I can choose what I want to do and write my own stuff that suits me.
Tell me about your characters
There’s Valere, who’s like Marie Antoinette’s best friend, a fabulously spoilt, rich character – a bit like the 17th-century version of the kind of A-list, gossip-girl kind of person. Cruello de Vil is the long-lost son of Creulla de Vil. He came about because I wanted to write myself into Disney, as none of the Disney leads would suit me (and I definitely wanted a lead role!).
Playing Cruello was also a chance to explore the dark side, and look at the play between good and evil and how it sometimes can be quite subjective. To Cruello, his mum Cruella isn’t evil – she’s his mother and that’s just how she is.
My other character, the Song and Dance Man, is a painted, dandy, top-hat-and-tails-wearing character that gives me a chance to sing the music I truly love to sing and listen to, which is jazz – Frank Sinatra, Blossom Dearie, Frank Bennett and so on.
Tell me a bit about your experience in Australia’s Got Talent.
I learned a lot. I especially loved Dawn French, who’s a comedy and character actor. Dawn’s advice was pointed, and she really got what I was doing – she always went in to bat for me. Unfortunately, we didn’t get to work as closely as I’d hoped. They make it look like you do on reality TV – but you don’t really get to spend a lot of time with them.
The hardest thing about reality TV is the social media side of it, which is uncontrollable and instantaneous: you’re famous for about 10 minutes and then suddenly you’re not. I was lucky out of all of my friends in the show because I was hidden under a character; it was about Valere, not about Brendan – so it gave me a barrier. It was so fast and disappeared quickly – I was in the finals and I was rehearsing for the Grand Final performance, but I didn’t get through and after that you have zero communication with anyone on the show. It’s very strange.
What can Guilty Pleasures audiences expect from a Brendan Hay performance?
They can expect lots of visual pleasure, where nothing’s taken too seriously.
Brendan will be performing his Song and Dance Man on Friday night and Cruello de Vil on Saturday night at Guilty Pleasures Cabaret & Burlesque Festival in the Brunswick Heads Memorial Hall. Book at www.guilty-pleasures-fest.com.au.