WAAPA classmates bring double bill cabaret to Sydney Fringe

Bobbie-Jean Henning and Larua Johnston both graduated from WAAPA’s musical theatre course in 2013. Since then, the ladies have both been making waves at cabaret venues across the country and the pair have teamed up to present a double bill at this year’s Sydney Fringe Festival.

Both have written cabarets with a focus on strong female characters. Harding brings Tales of A Time Travelling Songstress home to Sydney featuring touching tales and treasured tunes by the likes of Regina Spektor, Sia and Fleetwood Mac.

Johnston’s show Hitchcock’s Birds offers intimate insight into life working with the master of suspense, Alfred Hitchcock as told through the voices of his leading ladies including Grace Kelly, Ingrid Bergman, Dorris Day and Tippi Hedren. What did it take to be one of ‘Hitchcock’s Birds’ during the ‘Golden Age’ of Hollywood?

Presented by Edgeware Forum both of these one-woman shows play until 1 October at Erskineville Town Hall.

The girls gave each other 10 Q&A interview questions for AussieTheatre readers to enjoy!

Bobbie-Jean Harding in Tales of a travelling songstress
Bobbie-Jean Henning in Tales of a Time Travelling Songstress

Bobbie-Jean Henning answers Laura Johnston

If you could travel back in time, which time period would you choose?

Hmm, I’ll go with the 50s, based purely on aesthetics.

You sing many songs in the show from various eras and genres, what’s your favourite song and why?

I really like all of the songs in the show (probably because I got to pick them all..) but I think my favourite to sing would be ‘Windmills of Your Mind’. The music is so beautiful and moving, and there’s something about singing the section in French which I really enjoy.

Pajamas or clothes?

PAJAMAS. All day, erryday.

Funniest moment/ memory on stage?

Oh man, so many…I’ve got my wig stuck in curtains, gone onstage with several different costumes on at once or just  forgotten to go on stage all together.

You’re the Queen of baking! If Kitty was a cake what cake would she be and why?

Ooo I like this one. She would definitely be an elegant strawberry sponge cake! But with sparklers on top to keep her sassy.

What drew you to write Tales of a Time Travelling Songstress?

The freedom that the story has. I was able to create a really beautiful character and have her sing any songs and show her in all sorts of places and situations. The only real boundary was my imagination.

If you could have a super power what would it be?

I’m not sure if this is classified as a super power but I’d love to be able to speak every language. Including sign language and being able to communicate with animals.

What’s the biggest challenge in creating your own work?

I think the toughest thing is that you really have to trust your own judgment. When you’re working primarily by yourself there’s noone to say “Yeh that’s really funny” or “Oh God, thats terrible. Cut it!” You’ve got to trust your gut and be a bit fearless.

How do you deal with the pressure and nerves before performing by yourself for 50 minutes.

I normally don’t get too nervous before my shows. What I get most stressed about is needing to go to the bathroom mid-show but not being able to.. An irrational fear, I know.

What inspires you?

People inspire me. People that I know, that I meet, that I read about and that I hear about.

Laura Johnston answers Bobbie-Jean Henning

Laura Johnston in Hitchcock's Birds
Laura Johnston in Hitchcock’s Birds

Would you rather be able to fly or be invisible?


Who’s your favourite character in Hitchcock’s Birds?

That’s tough. They’re all wonderful women. But I do have a soft spot for Doris Day. She’s such a beacon of light with a tremendous amount of energy and her goofiness is beyond adorable.

Whats your worst/ funniest on stage mishap?

I was eleven. It was during the opening number of Act 2 for Joseph and The Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat and I was doing this cheerleading number and giving it all my might to the point where I leap off the stage and fall three rows in then repeated to crawl back up onto stage and limped to the next formation. The director pulled me off stage and iced my bruised leg.

I’ve since learnt what’s stage and what’s air.

What drew you to Hitchcock and the ladies he worked with?

I stumbled across an interview with Tippi Hedren talking about her experience working with Hitchcock, that was the beginning of the fascination. Post that interview, I couldn’t stop researching this man and the women who worked with him. It was an incredible time in Hollywood filmmaking. Hitchcock portrayed his women as strong individuals, deriving away from the Hollywood archetype.

I know you love soup. So what’s your favourite soup?

Thai curry coconut and pumpkin soup with finely chopped chilly and fresh coriander on top.

How’d you go about writing your show?

Most of the monologues are verbatim; radio and video interviews and speeches and the ones that aren’t are derived from newspaper articles, biographies and research. I had to use a bit of creative editing to help shape the piece but it’s all based on truth and their experiences with working with Hitchcock.

The songs are a device to help the women express their emotions beyond the use of words, when the words aren’t enough. At times, the music in the background is Hitchcock’s constant shadow over the women.

Favourite country you’ve visited?

I haven’t explored abroad that much sadly but so far my favourite places are Paris and Krakow.

What’s the hardest thing about putting on your own work?

That initial confirmation, “yes’ l’ll put on my own work.” That’s the hardest step.
Then maintaining the confidence and belief that it’s still a good idea!

Best thing about putting on your own work?

The creative freedom. Building nothing into something.

What’s your spirit animal and why?

I did a few quizzes to help answer this question. The results were:


You can choose…

Bobbie-Jean Henning, Danielle Stamoulos, David Bruce, Jess-Belle Keogh, Julia Dray and Maryann Wright founded Edgeware Forum in  June 2015 after monthly play readings inspired something more creative from the group.

This double bill is Edgeware Forum’s third production and a fourth – SLUT as part of Festival Fatale at the Eternity Playhouse – will open in October.

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Erin James is AussieTheatre.com's Editor in Chief and a performer on both stage and screen. Credits include My Fair Lady, South Pacific and The King and I (Opera Australia), Love Never Dies and Cats (Really Useful Group), Blood Brothers (Enda Markey Presents), A Place To Call Home (Foxtel/Channel 7) and the feature film The Little Death (written and directed by Josh Lawson).

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WAAPA classmates bring double bill cabaret to Sydney Fringe