Trevor Ashley talks like a Catherine wheel, with sparkling embers of camp flying off in a circular and constant motion. It’s vertiginous to watch and a lot of fun, exactly what I’ve come to expect from a cabaret performer who embraces (in fact, positively sodomises) the suss-dog qualities of the form. There isn’t a show tune in existence that Ashley hasn’t heard, learnt and sung -“ at least around his home and often on stage.
But Trevor Ashley the pop star, a pop princess no less, devoting a whole show to the oeuvres of Kylie, Madonna, Britney? Definitely, it seems, but definitely done in a very Ashley way.
For me the idea of the show came from not being stuck in the same thing all the time. There’s only so much you can do with a boy and a piano, Ashley explained over coffee. I look to shows like Bette Midler’s Divine Miss M shows and that’s where I want to head, to more production-based shows that have a strong concept, with being able to play a character, not just me -¦ With this show it’s all come true.
The show was written by Phil Scott with significant contributions by Ashley and director Missy Stephens, with 36 songs cut, pasted and sometimes presented with new lyrics. Given Scott’s recent cosmetic surgery work on Orpheus In The Underworld, I’m both terrified and excited by the possibilities.
The character we’ve created that I play is a psychotic pop star and is kind of a combination of every pop star that ever lived, we have bits of everyone’s life, Ashley said.
All the songs are his [and] everything in the show has happened to him, although the audience will know -˜oh, that happened to Britney Spears, or that happened to J. Lo or that happened to Kylie’. It doesn’t matter, because it happened to me.
What about boy bands?
I was in a boy band. We recreate my boy band moment. Basically I had myself cloned at the place where Dolly the sheep was done -¦ and I became my own boy band. Although we had to of course break up when I found out that myself and I were having a horrible affair, and me and I just couldn’t deal with it. So I had to have the other two destroyed.
The journey of Ashley’s character is littered with the usual break-ups, breakdowns and breakdancing, with video footage filling in the career gaps. Kimberly Cooper makes an appearance in a faux-Home And Away clip, Maria Venuti appears as Ashley’s Mum (in the tradition of Mama Eminem) and real clips of Ashley’s work on Romper Room and Young Talent Time add a spooky verisimilitude.
Then, of course, Ashley has to dance, backed up by the Dazzling Trevettes and instructed by Kylie choreographer William Forsythe. This last part has been a little daunting, Ashley tells me, although the mad twinkle in his eyes suggests he’s having a ball.
And of course, I even shorten my name at one point during the show, from Trevor Ashley to Tr. Ash. I become trash halfway through the show, he laughs, and I laugh too, watching him spinning around.