Review: Year of the Queen by Jeremy Stanford

Jeremy Stanford’s 2006 begins when he’s invited to work with Simon Phillips (then Artistic Director of the Melbourne Theater Company) and others on workshop Priscilla: Queen of the Desert into a stage musical, playing Tick (the part made famous by Hugo Weaving).

What follows is a year in a life of both an actor and a play, from workshop to full-blown Aussie musical, as Stanford juggles the commitments of family and career, auditions and rehearsals, returning to singing after an 8-year gap, creative inspirations and clashes, and all the emotional and professional dramas inherent in the acting life. Along the way, Stanford learns to embrace his inner drag queen and uses parts of his life as touchstones for bringing out Tick’s story.

Theatre life is full of strange pressures and the balancing acts of ego and collaboration to make a story work on stage. So often the whole enterprise seems on the precipice, but hard work, dedication and often sheer bloody-mindedness somehow forge hugely successful musical out of the furnace.

Seeing the theatrical world through Stanford’s eyes reveals layers of how such a world works. It’s lovingly told, but Stanford doesn’t hold back on revealing the days when tempers are frayed, emotional wellbeing is disintegrating and Jeremy himself is at a low, low ebb.

It’s a little gossipy, a little self-deprecating, and it’s more than a little stressful as the rehearsals go badly awry – but Stanford’s easygoing writing style and personable, honest approach keeps everything moving quickly towards the finale, where success will have to be wrought from a complex show and a pretend bus that keeps breaking down.

If you love Priscilla: Queen of the Desert, musical theatre, actorly memoirs or some combination of the three, Year of the Queen is the book for you!

Buy Year of the Queen