Michael Griffiths has made a name for himself with his tribute cabaret shows, paying homage to artists from Cole Porter to Madonna. At Fringe World this year, however, he’s doing something a little different, and taking requests… via social media. In his Fringe Session Q&A Griffiths gave Seesaw the lowdown on his new show and his career to date.
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Seesaw: Talk us through your career path to date.
Michael Griffiths: I studied Musical Theatre at the Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts in Mt Lawley in the late 90s. It was my first time moving out of home (ex Adelaide) and I lived on Beaufort St when it was cheap and before all those fancy homewares stores. Then I spent 15 years or so based in Sydney, touring in big jukebox musicals, before going it alone and being a solo cabaret artist the last six years. It’s all kept me very busy and I’m wondering what comes next. Maybe back to uni and become a bit more serious about teaching which I’m doing more and more of. I might unofficially make this Fringe my farewell tour 🙂 .
S: Describe your artistic practice.
MG: I’ve carved out a niche doing “tribute” cabaret shows. It started off with a show exploring Madonna (the undisputed Queen of Pop) and I ended up on a roll with tributes to Annie Lennox, Cole Porter, Kylie Minogue and Peter Allen. All of these shows use a “jukebox” musical approach where the story of an artist’s life is told using their back catalogue. With the female singers I use no impersonation or drag so they’re all a little bit “avant-garde”. All shows come from a sincere place of affection for each artist and there’s always lots of laughs too. Mainly it’s about sharing a love for pop music and that’s where an audience and I connect.
S: Tell us about your 2020 Fringe World show, “Michael Griffiths: By Request”.
MG: I’m taking requests! Ideally you let me know what night you’re in, and what song you’d like to hear, via social media (I’m on all of them) and give me a couple of days’ notice. If the song is already in my repertoire we’re all winning, otherwise I do a bit of homework and promise to do my best. It’s also a chance for me to sing with a three-piece band – something new, which I’m loving – and to tell some stories from working in showbiz the last 20 years. It’s super relaxed and a different line up every night.
S: What inspired you to make “By Request”?
MG: I felt like a little break from tribute shows. Each year I’ve come to Perth I’ve been exploring the songs of a different entertainer and this year I’m just being myself. Last year was the 20th anniversary of me graduating from WAAPA (which is weird because I still feel like I’m “emerging”) and it feels like a good time to stop for a moment and reflect. All of the songs I’ve chosen for the show (they’re not ALL requests) signify a special time in my life and I’ve got a few laughs from my days in musicals.
S: What makes “By Request” stand out from the 700 or so other shows on offer at Fringe World?
MG: You can bring your Nan to my show. There’s no nudity, language or daredevil thrills. It’s actually totally subversive.
S: You’re no stranger to Fringe World. What draws you back?
MG: I adore Perth. It takes me back to being in my early 20s and it’s always sunny in Perth. Fringe World is the first festival I did in Australia back in 2014 (right after my first Edinburgh Fringe in 2013) and audiences in Perth have always been so big, warm and appreciative. It’s always the highlight of my year.
S: What is your favourite part of the playground?
MG: My favourite was always a slippery dip. The bigger the better.
“Michael Griffiths: By Request” plays the Edith Spiegeltent at Yagan Square, 17-19 January as part of Fringe World 2020.
“The Fringe Sessions” is an annual series of Q&A interviews with artists who will be appearing at Fringe World. This Q&A with Michael Griffiths is the first for 2020… stay tuned for more, coming very soon!
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