ESCAPE How often do you get to travel overseas?
PAUL CAPSIS If I am lucky, at least one a year, and in recent years I have been primarily going to Austria. I love that place, and I love it more every time I return. The first time I was there was in 1996 performing with Penny Arcade and I remember thinking, This city is incredible -“ I hope I come back here one day. How often have you been back since?
PC Well, fast-forward to 2001 when Barrie Kosky called me and said he was in Austria and he wanted me to work on a show. So I went over and it opened New Year’s Eve 2001. It was my first time I experienced a white Christmas. My partner Simon came over and we had a beautiful holiday in Semmering, which is two hours south in the mountains. It was heaven, and I had never seen so much thick snow.
ESC And since then?
PC I did a return season in early autumn and that was beautiful. I travelled from Vienna to Venice by train, and the views around Vienna are amazing, with the stunning architecture and what I call the cake houses, with their little windows and painted flowers on the doors. I remember thinking, This must be what heaven looks like. It was just perfection. Then in 2004-05, I was there for three months and that time I felt like a local.
ESC What is it you love most about Vienna?
PC It’s the history that does it for me, and the history of what has gone on. I love the fact that I can go to a caf?and it has been there for longer than the European settlement of Australia. You feel like you can touch that history.
ESC Do you have a favourite place in the city?
PC St Stephen’s Cathedral I absolutely adore. It is the one church in the world that I go to light candles. It is a spiritual place for me in Vienna and it is right in the centre of the city. One of the treats I do for myself is grab a roll of black and white and I take pictures all day.
ESC Did you go out on the gay scene in Vienna?
PC I was busy with work, but I went out to one very cool bar called Flex and that was fun. There is also a famous gay caf?he Berg, but I thought the attitude there was as heavy in the air as the smokers’ smoke!
ESC How much has Boulevard Delirium changed since 2001?
PC It improved from the first time in Vienna to the last time in Melbourne, because I got fitter. The first time I did it, I was sure I was going to die. Each time, Barrie and I continued to work on it and then it seemed to crystallise. It is the hardest show I have ever done, but it is also my favourite of all my shows. If someone said they had never seen my work, I would tell them this is the one they have to see.
ESC Describe Boulevard Delirium.
PC It is like a nightmarish musical theatre show. It is loud and funny but also very dark. The show has the very theatrical Barrie Kosky elements to it and each thing leads into another and it keeps transforming. This is my stuff, given the Kosky treatment. This show is very Viennese.
ESC Which of your icon girls do you do in this show?
PC I do Janis Joplin, of course, as well as Judy and Marlene. I also do Billie Holliday and Bessie Smith, and I introduce a blues character called Queenie Capsis. It is Kosky’s take on what I do, and it has worked. I did three seasons in Vienna, and it was a cult hit. It was a very broad audience -“ gays, lesbians, straights and everyone, so I had a great crowd. The Melbourne seasons were wonderful, but I am so glad to be finally doing this at home in Sydney.
Boulevard Delirium opens 30 November at the Playhouse of the Sydney Opera House. Bookings: 9250 7777.