Tag Archives: non-fiction

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

Review: Lion: A Long Way Home by Saroo Brierley

My Happy June reading has included one non-fiction book – Saroo Brierley’s extraordinary story of how he finally rediscovered his home and family in India, 25 years after he became lost as a five year old and was adopted by the Brierleys in Tasmania.

The movie Lion became one of the biggest feel-good films of 2016, and as a bonus gave us so many delightful, joyful pictures of Dev Patel and Sunny Pawar being outrageously adorable together.

The book contains more detail, more subtlety and more depth than the film, naturally. The film also ends more or less at the point where Saroo is reunited with his mother (I’m assuming that this is a spoiler for no-one). Saroo Brierley’s memoir goes on to talk about the aftermath of that meeting, including meeting his nieces and nephews and going back to Kolkotta for the first time since he was a tiny boy, almost eaten alive by that teeming city.

I actually heard of Brierley’s story years before, in a national newspaper (probably The Age) covered it. Having been lost so young and unable to find his way back home to his village, Saroo never forgot his family or the places he knew growing up. As an adult in Tasmania, living when Google Maps opened up the chances of retracing his steps, Saroo did just that.

It’s a marvellous story of serendipity and grace meets technology, perseverence and unconditional love.  Brierley’s clear, unfancy prose combines with his vivid memories to paint the story of his life, which turned out to be so extraordinary.

If you’ve already watched and loved Lion, the book adds depth and detail, and is a charming, quick read. Pretty perfect for a Happy June read!

Buy Lion: A Long Way Home