Is there anything queerer than a bunch of sailors singing at sea? Maybe, maybe not. 

Seamen! The Sea Shanty Spectacular is inspired by the 2020 sea shanty craze that went viral on TikTok. 

Composer and arranger of the show, Alex Morris researched sea shanties – a genre of traditional folk songs that were commonly sung by sailors on large ships. 

“There’s something to be said about people who were marking or passing time by singing sea shanties yet again, but this time in the digital age,” he said, referring to young people recording sea shanties on TikTok during the 2020 lockdowns. 

‘Songs with a Bit of a Story Woven Through’

“The show is basically a collection of songs with a bit of a story woven through it, but the songs kind of tell everything,” said Morris. 

Along with two music producers, Will Hannagan and Victoria Falconer-Pritchard, he’s given the sea shanties a modern vibe. 

“[We’ve] taken the traditional sea shanty and thrust it into the 21st century,” he said. “Some of them are massive and epic; others are a bit more washy and beautiful, but there’s definitely a queer flavour in the electronic music [the producers have] created.” 

The show also has a “poignant” marine song about seafarers, which is written by an Indigenous artist, Shellie Morris. 

‘Way Camper and Queer than We Ever Expected’

“We didn’t realise how camp and queer Seamen! The Sea Shanty Spectacular would be until we put together our digital show for Melbourne Fringe last year and realised that it was going to be way camper and queer than we ever expected,” Morris said. 

It couldn’t be featured during the 2020 Melbourne Fringe Festival due to the COVID pandemic. 

“There’s a real mixture of music; some sombre moments but a lot of camp frivolity,” he said. 

Most of the cast is queer and some of the vocalists have been in shows like Shania Choir and .Church.. 

“For me, it made so much more sense for us to have this first iteration in-person in Midsumma because it means we can really take it to its queer extent, and really explore that camp side of the ensemble,” he said. 

Alex Morris also has a solo show, Queer-aoke and is musical director of .Church.. Both will be playing during Midsumma Festival 2022. 

The Curtin – 29 Lygon Street, Carlton  on 9–11 February at 8pm 

Star Observer’s Midsumma fg (Festival Guide)

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