Actor-turned-journalist Martin Portus returns to the stage for the first time in 30 years this month for the one-man show The Giraffe’s Uncle: The Les Robinson Story.
The work that coaxed him back into the limelight details the life of Les Robinson, an eccentric figure in Sydney’s bohemian scene between the 1920s and 1960s.
Despite being a regular contributor and cartoonist to The Bulletin, The Australian Worker and Punch among others, Robinson refused to pay rent, living in derelict houses and caves around Sydney Harbour.
“He had a pathological hatred for paid work — he celebrated a life of bohemia,” Portus told the Star Observer.
“In the play, he’s always mulling over ideas of success and failure. His writing output was pretty slender, but he had a unique style of magical absurdism.”
Portus admitted that, while he’d never had the urge to take to a cave, part of what attracted him to the work by award-winning Melbourne playwright Kieran Carroll was the affinity he felt for Robinson.
“I spend a lot of time grappling, even now, with what success and failure is, much like Les. When I came to Sydney as a gay boy from Adelaide at 17 and I wanted to be an actor, I was torn between wanting to be part of the mainstream and wanting to create a place for myself in bohemia, in the gay community.”
INFO: The Giraffe’s Uncle, November 16 – 27, King St Theatre. www.newtowntheatre.com.au
Photo: Cynthia Sciberras