ED2017 Cabaret ED2017 Chris Meets ED2017 Interviews ED2017 Review Edition

Anya Anastasia: Rogue Romantic

By | Published on Friday 11 August 2017

Feisty cabaret star Anya Anastasia harks from that other fringe city, by which we mean the one down under, as in Adelaide. A regular at that Fringe, last year she also wowed the Edinburgh crowd with her show ‘Torte E Mort’.
Now she is back with a brand new musical cabaret extravaganza called ‘Rogue Romantic’, which seemed like a very good reason indeed to catch up with the lady herself, to find out more about her career, her music, and what the new show is all about.

CC: So, let’s start at the start, how and when did you start performing?
AA: When mum brought me home from the hospital after I was born, I didn’t stop cackling to myself like I’d pulled off the impossible – here I was on Earth! I’M BACK! Soon after that I started singing. Then I started learning words.

CC: When did you decide that a career in cabaret was beckoning?
AA: I didn’t choose cabaret, it chose me! The satirical bent and socio-political commentary of my lyrical content – which just came from my personal philosophy and need for expression – brought cabaret audiences to me, and I deliberately sought out environments where people were forced to listen to the lyrics and what I had to say. My flamboyant theatrical style and fascination with theatre, visuals and performing with physicality, all combined to solidify my place in the cabaret world.

CC: Do you write your songs with a show in mind – ie around some sort of theme? Or do you write individual songs in isolation?
AA: Both. I write songs all the time. Sometimes they just come to me, or I write to understand personal experiences, or the things I observe. These then make their way to my secret catalogue of folk and pop songs that no one ever really hears – because I never really release them. But when I set out to write a show, I set out to write a show. I usually write ten songs around a theme, then I hone the narrative and flow of the show, get a director to help me weed out the unnecessary bits and pieces – which I put onto the backburner for other projects – and then I write two or three more songs to a specific brief. To fill the places in the show that need a certain tone or message, so to connect everything. I think writing to a brief in that way is actually where I create my best work.

CC: What can we expect from ‘Rogue Romantic’?
AA: It’s feisty, flirtatious and hilarious – I am exposing my trials and tribulations in finding love. In this show I’m questioning how romance is presented in popular culture, and how much is left over and still haunting us from ‘traditional’ models or representations of relationships. Where does that leave women? And don’t you think tackling big issues needs to start from a personal and local level? My belief as a feminist starts with power dynamics and respect within all your most personal relationships, and I need to have it straight in my head what I deserve. It was a challenge to recondition myself to believe that I deserved an equal standing in my relationships. I challenged myself to be able to wake up to the awareness of how unhealthy some of my own patterns have been. In writing this show I taught myself how to be on my own and be truly happy. And the alter-ego that I created in order to do so is maniacally powerful!

CC: People may have seen your previous show ‘Torte E Mort’. How does this once compare?
AA: ‘Rogue Romantic’ has a fuller band and I play one character the whole way through, exposing much more of myself, and having many more personal moments and interactive moments with the audience. This show is very much built around audience experience too – it’s a party.

CC: You’re originally from Adelaide – home of another very large Fringe – and you are also here as an ambassador for Adelaide Festivals. How does the Adelaide Fringe compare to the Edinburgh Fringe?
AA: Adelaide Fringe is massive, but it is also very easy to navigate, and you can really make a significant impact in that festival. The weather is incredible during that time in Adelaide, so the outdoor bars and pop up venues in the open air are amazing. It’s one big outdoor summer party and arts overload. The Adelaide Fringe is also where I have honed my craft for the last eight years, testing work in front of audiences. The staff who work at Adelaide Fringe are all very friendly and accessible and helpful too, and many of them are here in Edinburgh and available to chat! Edinburgh Fringe does feel like the centre of the world though, doesn’t it? I think it’s important for people to experience both, the biggest Fringe in each hemisphere.

CC: You’ve performed at many festivals around the world. Other than Edinburgh and Adelaide, which is your favourite and why?
AA: I loved performing at Prague Fringe. The curated programme there favours the dark and unusual, which is really unique leaning for a festival, and audiences really strongly embrace it and think deeply about what they are seeing, which is so very refreshing in a fringe environment where so often the focus is on sheer stunt and entertainment value.

CC: You mentioned the importance of audience interaction in your shows. Do audiences differ around the world?
AA: Absolutely, and to an extent I adjust my performance accordingly to make sure I’m bringing people on the journey with me. Audiences can differ night to night too in any given city. Collective mood and energy is a huge factor in a cabaret show.

CC: You also mentioned your band. Tell us more about them. How did you all come to be working with together?
AA: I worked with my drummer Bec Matthews on the creation of ‘Torte E Mort’ – her partner Sarah Ward was a co-director. We have a great working relationship and some similar musical influences. Laurie Black on the keyboard is a piano playing legend who actually reviewed ‘Torte E Mort’ last year. That’s how we first came across each other. She became a fan of the work, and then I learned about her work, and the feeling was mutual. She joined the team for our Adelaide premiere earlier this year. Finally, Alana is a staple of the Adelaide Cabaret scene and has played bass for many great international cabaret performers who have travelled to the city. She’s very memorable and watchable in the show. All the performers who join me on the stage bring more than just the music to the show, they each have a powerful presence.

CC: How did you find doing a full run at the Edinburgh Fringe last year? You clearly enjoyed it enough to come back!
AA: I loved it. It is one of the best things you can do to develop as a performer, to have nightly performances for an entire month. You find all the nuanced moments in the show and become the master of your own work and craft, learning to deal with every little thing that might change or come up in a live context.

CC: We’re a week into the 2017 festival – how is it going this year? What have been the highs and lows so far?
AA: I just love that starry-eyed arrival, all the hopes and dreams are there in front of you, and Edinburgh is such an amazingly beautiful city to arrive in. Everything went so smoothly with our get-in and opening night at the beautiful Assembly Checkpoint. The energy level dip after the opening weekend is always a hurdle, when you realise the mammoth scale of the month ahead, wow! Let’s see what this weekend has to bring hey!

CC: Doing a full Edinburgh run is famously hard work, and you need to keep your voice on top form too! Any tips for other singers who are performing every night of the festival?
AA: Honestly, the best thing to keep your voice tip top is to sleep and to look after your mental health. I find if I am worried, anxious, unsure of something, that suffering is audible in the strain in my voice. I spend time getting my head right if I am feeling exhausted or down – I talk to people who know me well, my family back home, and I feel the tension leave my throat. As a workaholic, I have to consciously make the decision to be kind to myself and sleep in, or go home early, outsource flyering and seriously check in with myself about my energy levels, and make sure I’m managing to get enough rest. This is the first year I’ve really understood the importance of my own voice – and therefore health – in the show. Before I always assumed the visuals and the comedy was the spectacle. Both audience and critic reviews have told me otherwise this year.

Anya Anastasia performed ‘Rogue Romantic’ at Assembly Checkpoint at Edinburgh Festival 2017.