INTERVIEW: JESSICA McKERLIE THROWS A SPANNER INTO CABARET

After a successful Adelaide Fringe Festival season, Jessica McKerlie is back in Adelaide for Cabaret Fringe Festival with Gender Spanner.

Armed with a ukulele, spinning plates and an array of costumes, Jessica questions labels, stereotypes and identities.

Featuring a suite of original music, burlesque and theatrical monologues, Gender Spanner will play on the first two weekends of June at La Boheme.

Gender SpannerReturning to Adelaide on the back of her first national tour, Jessica is thrilled to be here again.

“I love Adelaide!” she says. “I’ve been here more times in the past year than the rest of my life! I did Gender Spanner at Adelaide Fringe and made a bunch of friends. My show is the epitome of Fringe – there’s food flinging all over the place, stripping, hilarious awkward poetry with audience participation – when you think of a typical “Fringe” show, it’s the sort of weird late night stuff that’s completely off the wall, and I felt that the Fringe of the Cabaret Festival is absolutely my target audience, and jumped at the chance to come back.”

Despite the fun and frivolity of it, Gender Spanner deals with some important questions and issues, which, through theatre, can begin much needed discussions and break down barriers.

“Gender fluidity is a really hot topic right now. More people are talking about it than ever. It’s the perfect time to take someone to a show about something that they may have a few questions about, or perhaps haven’t heard much about at all,” Jessica says.

“Everybody’s heard of Caitlyn Jenner, but I think there’s a lot of confusion about the definition of words such as transgender, transvestite, and gender non-conforming. All these words being thrown about have specific meanings, and people might not know how, or might feel awkward asking questions sometimes. The show is a conversation starter, so you can see the show and discuss the ideas it brings up, and any thought and feelings you might have.

“And it’s fun! It can be quite a heavy, serious topic, and cabaret is a tongue in cheek way of bringing up ideas in a fun exciting way, rather than just a serious conversation.”

Wearing her heart on her sleeve, Jessica, who has been performing since she played a chicken in Alice in Wonderland for the Christmas pantomime at her local community theatre, shares her own experiences in the show, which she hopes will help others.

“I love the places this show has pushed me to as a performer. It’s littered with really personal stories, and doing certain pieces in front of audiences, family members, all sorts of people, has made me find strength and comedy in places where I thought there was none,” she says.

“And some of the comments from audience members are absolutely touching and sweet. I’ve had a father thank me for starting a conversation with his son who was coming out. It’s a privilege to be in that position.

“This show isn’t just for the queer community, it’s for everyone. Whether you’re queer, questioning, a straight ally, or someone who knows absolutely nothing about gender fluidity, this show is a fun night out no matter how much you know or want to know.”

Catch Gender Spanner at Cabaret Fringe Festival by buying tickets here and check out the whole program at the Cabaret Fringe Festival website.

Gender Spanner Season
2nd, 3rd, 4th June 2016 7pm
9th, 10th, 11th June 2016 9pm

Duration          50 mins
Venue              La Boheme, 36 Grote St, Adelaide, SA, 5000

By Libby Parker