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A crash course on the life of Ryan


Ahead of her show at this month’s Feast Festival, cabaret performer Amelia Ryan tells InDaily about growing up in a town called Bombo, surviving the boot-camp that is Edinburgh Fringe, and how love lured her to Adelaide.

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You’ve got an interesting family background – tell us about that and how it helped shaped you as a person and performer?

Yes, it’s indeed quite colourful! My dad came out when I was 10 years old, and some years later, remarried a trans woman.

To be honest, this had its challenges growing up in coastal New South Wales (the town itself was Bombo … look it up, very cosmopolitan). And, of course, it defied the expectations of how I thought my family life would be.

But I didn’t realise at the time how much depth, perspective and compassion it would subsequently equip my family with. I think any challenge makes us dig a little deeper into who we are, and opens our minds to other people’s individual journeys. It’s also really redefined my understanding of what “family” can be.

It’s without a doubt shaped my performing work, both creatively (I write quite a bit about my family life), but also in terms of what I bring to a performance – be it cabaret or an acting role.

It’s hard to authentically bring something to the stage that you haven’t truly experienced for yourself. Yes, you can “act” something out, but there’s something about digging into your personal experiences that is so real and raw which is truly satisfying for both a performer and the audience. And for me, authenticity, both on and off the stage, is paramount.

When did you first realise you were destined for the stage?

I made my stage debut in an outdoor production in a quarry (an actual quarry … ultra glam) when I was five, back in Bombo.

Despite being surrounded by boulders and dust, there was something about being in costume, surrounded by loads of fun people, singing songs and pretending to be someone else, that made me feel right at home.

Plus, I didn’t mind putting on the old DIY show at home for my folks, so they threw me into drama classes, probably to give themselves a break.

You started out in musical theatre – why did you swap song and dance for comedy and cabaret?

Because I am, and I quote, “the world’s worst dancer”. Just ask the head lecturer at the Victorian College of the Arts, where I studied musical theatre.

I’d cry with every clumsy pirouette. We did a unit in cabaret at VCA, and I immediately knew that was my niche. Plus I had a few colourful stories to share.

A Storm in a D Cup has been enormously successful, and you’ve recently returned from a run at the Edinburgh Fringe. What can those who haven’t seen it before expect from the Feast show?

It’s actually undergone some pretty big, fun changes. There’s more audience participation (one lucky guy will be treated to my “crappy lappy”), there are chaotic on-stage costume changes, and there’s a new song at the end.

Edinburgh is seriously like boot-camp for performers – nothing toughens you up like doing 24 shows back to back, to the widest variety of audiences imaginable. I’d like to think I’ve returned with some sharpened skills.

Plus, I’m actually integrating a song about gay marriage, from my new show Lady Liberty, just as a bit of a Feast special.

Why did the girl from Bombo decide to move to Adelaide and what is your favourite thing about the city?

One guess … love. I met my partner, Zac, in New York City while performing A Storm in a D Cup. He was there doing a producing internship, and (as fate would have it) they assigned him to produce my show.

The relationship quickly became anything but professional and within two months I’d moved to Adelaide. I LOVE it here.

After living in Sydney and Melbourne, I’m going to say my favourite thing is the ease. It’s hard to get stressed out by the city itself. It’s smooth and easy and accessible. I can’t believe this is my response. I’m officially getting old.

I read an interview where you said you had crashed and written off five vehicles. Are you still crashing cars?

I’m pleased to report the last crash I had was just before I moved to Adelaide. My beloved Citroen met its death on a road near Bombo, courtesy of an 80kg wombat. Don’t mess with them. And not only do I no longer crash cars, I also have comprehensive car insurance. This Storm in a D Cup is all grown up.

Amelia Ryan is a Storm in a D-Cup will be at the Nexus Theatre, Lion Arts Centre Courtyard, on November 27 at part of the Adelaide Feast Festival, which begins this Saturday and continues until November 29.

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