Turning 30 ugh! How to deal with the upheavals and anxieties the looming BIG THREE O can provoke in so many of us?
Simon Abrahams and Lachlan McLeod have an answer which grew out of their own experiences. Their recipe; write a song or two about your anxieties and before too long you find yourself with an “inter-glactic comedy cabaret confessional” called Saturn Returns, which opened on 27 March as part of the Melbourne International Comedy Festival.
Aussie Theatre’s Jan Chandler spoke with the two thirtysomethings a few days before they opened.
For Abrahams and McLeod there have been a number of highlights to date. They first met when they auditioned for a show called Jet lag which took them to the New York Fringe Festival. Later they worked together at Polyglot Theatre where Abrahams was the Executive Producer and McLeod a performer. Together they toured the world, Korea, UK the States. All this was great but the time they have spent working together to conceive, write, develop, direct, perform and tour (I’m out of breath already) Saturn Returns is yet another important high point for the duo.
Saturn Returns grew out of their attempt to help Abrahams deal with the anxieties he experienced as he faced the prospect of turning thirty. They no sooner penned and performed their first song, ‘Turning 29’, than McLeod found himself experiencing similar anxieties as he too was faced with the major transition that this birthday has come to represent.
Asking themselves why this birthday, of all others to date, has such an impact they looked around them and discovered that they were anything but alone. Next they stumbled across the astrological theory of Saturn’s orbit returning to where it was at the time of ones birth; the planet takes 29.4 years to complete its orbit round the sun. According to astrologers, this return heralds a major turning point in ones life and for those approaching thirty it signals their moving from youth to adulthood. Horror, or horror, how to deal with getting fat, growing old, going grey?
Abrahams says that they knew that Saturn Returns was going to be funny but they didn’t necessarily conceive of it for the Comedy Festival. As he describes it, the work very deliberately takes one on a bit of a journey and contains some darker moments. It wasn’t until they finished the show and performed it for an audience that “we kind of realised that it was funny”. Abrahams comes across as a little surprised at the audience response to what he describes as the “big comedic moments”.
The two clearly like working together and McLeod puts this down to the fact that they have different specific skills.
“I’m very good at writing a catchy, funny, but also heartfelt, song that will get stuck in your head forever, and Simon’s very good at marketing that and knowing what’s working and not working and what we will do with it.”
Abrahams is the story-teller. As he says “I spend my life working in the theatre … I’ve probably seen twenty shows in the last fortnight … so that’s my craft … working out how we can build that journey for the audience.”
“Simon’s a notoriously harsh critic” quips McLeod.
Saturn Returns premiered with a sold out season at The Butterfly Club in South Melbourne in 2012 and went on to tour with the wonderful musical comedy act, Tripod – great credentials there. Now Abrahams and McLeod are bringing the show back to The Butterfly Club, in its new location in the heart of Melbourne, Carson Place just of Little Collins Street.
Having known and loved the ‘old’ Butterfly Club I was keen to see the new venue and to check whether they have managed to retain the wondrous, kitsch ambiance of the original. You’ll be glad to hear that they have and, if that is possible, they have even managed to enhance it. The new venue is a rabbit warren of different rooms, on different levels. Simone Pulga tells me as I leave that his next project is to secure sufficient funds to install a lift but, till then, patrons need to be prepared to walk up several different staircases to discover the bars, cozy conversation areas and the new, larger, performance space.
Abrahams waxes lyrical about The Butterfly Club. Talking as a producer, he has experienced it as “an incredibly artist friendly space [and] the financial deals they strike make the whole thing incredibly viable.”
As a performer Abrahams describes the club as “a beautiful space … because it’s so intimate.” Although it’s a small space to him it feels big enough to be expansive, whilst still retaining a feeling of friendly, even homely, intimacy.
The two may be familiar with The Butterfly Club but when asked what was special for them about their show being in the Melbourne International Comedy Festival McLeod replied “well, we’ve never done it before” which prompted laughter all round. Abrahams is excited about bringing the show to a different audience. Both decided that they didn’t need to add any more jokes because it was already so funny.
So Saturn Returns has returned, bringing with it some new material. McLeod adds that the show has “actually changed quite a lot since we started. The linking stories in between songs have been changed and the dynamics have shifted a little.” The two are alone on stage; both sing, between them they play piano, ukelele and at one stage they perform to, in Abraham’s words, a “ridiculous electronic pre-record … the whole thing is punctuated by storytelling which takes the ordinary punter through the kind of trials and tribulations of our coming of age.”
If the enthusiasm of Abrahams and McLeod are anything to go by, Saturn Returns is the perfect antidote to those 30 something blues. So, as Abrahams says, “come to the show everybody!”
You’ll have a night of laughter and be able to re-live the night by buying their just recorded album of the show which will be available after the show or on the website.
27 March to 6 April
The Butterfly Club – 256 Collins Street, Melbourne
(entry via Carson Place off Little Collins Street)