A Quick Chat With Brendan Hay

Hayes Theatre Co, in its role as a new home in Sydney for Australian musical theatre and cabaret performances, is making good on its promise by hosting a cabaret festival.

Featured as part of the festival is Brendan Hay’s Cruello de Vil in Dance With De Vil, the story of the son of a certain villainess who has, mysteriously, entered society after a lifelong absence. Get to know the man behind De Vil – Brendan Hay. HIGH RES Dance with de Vil 1

As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
A performing missionary. Sounds like a made up occupation, but as a kid I grew up with quite a few of my parent’s friends who were just that. Missionaries who performed their way through third world countries, giving, working and providing for locals. I thought that was rather fantastic.

Who is the most important person in the world to you?
My family hold a pretty special spot in my heart. I am the middle child of a family with three completely different sons, so it’s been a fun ride and I’d do anything for them. Plus I have rather wonderful parents. It’s hard not to love them!

What animal best represents you and why?
I would have to say a “Horse” (which has nothing to do with my appearance). Not only was I born in the year of the horse, but I grew up in the country, and to me these beautiful animals are a stunning combination of power, poise, hard working determination with an unusual sense of vanity.

What is your go-to shower song?
The shower is actually where I learn all my lyrics, so there tends to be a constantly changing playlist. I live in a high rise apartment – my poor neighbours must get sick of songs quite quickly after hearing them on loop every morning while I get ready.

What was the first piece of theatre/film/TV you ever appeared in and how old were you?
I appeared in many a dance concert from the age of 5, but my first “role” was as an Oompa Loompa in a community production of “Charlie and The Chocolate Factory” at the age of 8.

Windows or MAC?
Wasn’t Windows a 90’s thing?

Favourite food?
You can’t go past a really good berry muffin. Baked goods… the key to my heart.

Who is the actor you would most like to work alongside?
Emma Stone. I think she is every kind of awesome. She is smart, funny, goofy, not afraid to belt out a big show stopping number, has a great sense of style, stunning on the red carpet and proud of her extremely white skin. We’re practically twins.

What would be the first five songs you put on a ‘mix-tape’ playlist?
The Look of Love, Dusty Springfield
I Want To Be Evil, Eartha Kitt
Cry Me A River, Barbra Streisand (Live)
Speechless, Lady Gaga (Acoustic)
Don’t Wish Too Hard, Peter Allen

What is the best thing about cabaret in Australia?
Even though it is clearly not a new art form, it feels like cabaret has suddenly taken a swell in awareness, particularly within the emerging independent Sydney generation. There are a heap of amazing young artists creating their own wacky spin off “cabaret”, bringing with them their personal experiences as an Australian artist, or even their experience of different art forms such as circus arts, comedy circuit, pop music, instrumental arts – which is wonderful. It’s not only intriguing and informative to watch someone else give their completely different rendition, but also a great motivational way for me to challenge myself and my own ideas about the art form. Gone are the days of sitting on a chair and singing a string of Sondheim, our Australian audiences have seen that already and want something more. They want light hearted, thought provoking, historically accurate ground breaking re-invention – if that’s even possible.

What’s the worst thing about cabaret in Australia?
I feel we are still a little safe. I can’t seem to decide whether, as a community, we need more consistent exposure to obscure artists to take a risk and buy tickets to an unusual or underground show, or whether it be that deep down we are still a little conservative. I often find that Australian audiences can get embarrassed by the unique and obscure, particularly in a cabaret setting where there’s the possibility they might accidentally end up involved. I know I certainly feel rigid when in the audience, and I’m a performer! However, I feel that in order to grow, explore and develop the broad spectrum of our artistic reach we need to celebrate the unusual combinations that our (short) national history has provided us with, because even when we think we are being “ground breaking” or outrageous there always seems to be someone doing something crazier on YouTube.  So I’d love to see a hungrier yearning for less “safe” artists which would then lead us to more boundary pushing, theatrically pleasing, hands on, cringe worthy but fabulous cabaret.

Name one moment when you looked around, breathed happily and felt content.
The word “content” in my brain is synonymous with the word “complacent”, which has a negative connotation for me. I’m not sure “content” is what I’m aiming for. As my stage persona Valère would say “Perfection is the goal towards which I strive, for me… that’s what it means to be alive!” (from La Bete by David Hirson).

Where is the most interesting place you have travelled?
I travel to Hong Kong every now and then to perform as Valère, and I find it to be an extremely interesting city. I am still yet to decide if I truly like it, which is what makes it interesting for me. However, the most beautiful city I have ever been to would have to be Quebec Old City at Christmas time. There’s something about white snow, good Christmas Carols, hot chocolate and shopping in boutique hat stores wearing a fur coat that just warms my heart (there we go, I knew Cruello was hidden in there somewhere!).

Where do you see yourself in five years?
Some form of Gaga sized world domination would be nice… But that’s more my 10 year plan…
Ideally I would love to take my crazy on tour (to EVERYWHERE!!!), telling my stories across many platforms using my two wonderful characters (and perhaps a few more?). I also have a love for many other aspects of theatre, fashion, music and art, so to be creating, influencing, engaging and working across more artistic fields than I am right now at a slightly higher level than where I am right now, and still have a burning desire to do more, then I would be exactly where I want to be in five years time.

What’s your life motto?
Life is perception, so let your imagination run wild and form yourself the reality you want.

What’s your favourite post-show snack?
Ice Cream with some form of chocolate mashed through it. I have an epic sweet tooth.

What’s your biggest phobia?
Poor manners.

What is the worst date you’ve ever had?
I don’t date… I’m dated (Valère, 2014).

Describe your current project.
“Dance with De Vil” is the first outing of my new stage persona Cruello de Vil. As the name would suggest, Cruello is the long lost son of fashionista and socialite Cruella de Vil from “The Hundred and One Dalmatians”, the 1956 children’s novel by Dodie Smith, animated by Disney in 1961 and played by Glenn Close in 1996. Cruello, a fashion inspired reference to party people throughout the ages has emerged after 22 years locked in the dungeons of Hall Hall, has claimed his rightful position as head of his Mother’s fashion empire, “House of De Vil”, with the ambition and drive required to sweep the world by storm one cabaret audience at a time.

This show is well researched, thoughtful, witty, visually striking, shocking, sensual, hilarious and a general hoot, plus has a fab set of sexy backing dancers and an amazing pianist! Cruello is a fabulous character to play, and I get a great amount of enjoyment seeing the audience react to him and his way of existing, which is of course inspired by my own personal theatrical flair, but mostly made up of the bits I can’t use when playing “Brendan”. I seem to get away with much, much more when I am Cruello… so let the fun begin.

To keep up with Cruello, visit his Facebook page.

Cassie Tongue

Cassie is a theatre critic and arts writer in Sydney, and is the deputy editor of AussieTheatre. She has written for The Guardian, Time Out Sydney, Daily Review, and BroadwayWorld Australia. She is a voter for the Sydney Theatre Awards.

Cassie Tongue

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