IRELAND’S very own drag superstar shot to international notoriety when a video of her passionately asking for marriage equality in her home country went viral.
Panti Bliss was no stranger to speaking out against homophobia when she addressed an audience at Dublin’s Abbey Theatre in 2014. The video of that speech has racked up over a million views and Bliss has been credited with playing an integral role in the success at Ireland’s referendum where the country voted to allow same-sex marriage.
Star Observer caught up with O’Neill who said he did feel the pressure to constantly speak out on serious issues, especially those affecting the LGBTI community.
“Nowadays, I find there are people who come to the show who are waiting to be fucking inspired,” he said.
“Sometimes I worry now, that everything I say is taken too seriously. So I have to remind people I’m an entertainer first and an activist second.”
For the first time in his career O’Neill, 47, has created a show tailored for a specific audience, where normally he writes a show, works on it and tweaks it as he takes it around the world, but Rooting for Australia was made especially for Mardi Gras.
It premieres tonight and will only be performed three times.
A veteran visitor to Australia, the show will cover O’Neill’s observations travelling Down Under and cover topics close to Aussie’s hearts – themselves.
“I explain my fascination for Australia through the prism of a 1980’s TV mini-series (Return to Eden),” he said.
“The show has two very different parts. I talk about the ice epidemic which we don’t have at home.
“But what is interesting for me, this show will never get an outing again, we’ll only do the three shows.”
Along, with creating Rooting for Australia specifically for Sydney, O’Neill will be a star attraction on the Irish Australian float at the Mardi Gras parade as historical character, Grace O’Malley – Ireland’s own pirate queen.
The group won best float at last year’s St Patrick’s Day parade as other parades around the world banned or severely restricted LGBTI floats. O’Neill said it’s very appropriate he will be parading as the iconic O’Malley.
“She’s a famous and iconic figure in Ireland. She was the pirate queen of the seas, a very formidable woman and everyone was afraid of her,” O’Neill said.
“Famously, she sailed her boat up the Thames to meet Queen Elizabeth and the two very strong women had their tête-à-tête.
“Her castle is on a tiny island not far from where I grew up, so her presence loomed very large in my childhood. When we were kids we used to actually play a game we called Grace O’Malley.
“I think it’s very fitting for me to be playing Grace O’Malley.”
ROOTING FOR AUSTRALIA
Sunday 28 February, Monday 29 February and Tuedsay 1 March, 7:30PM.
249 OXFORD STREET, PADDINGTON
The Star Observer is a proud media partner of the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras.