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Over the last week, we were given the opportunity to talk to Perth’s young performer, Clint Strindberg. Known for his Cabaret and Drag character, Cougar Morrison, who has already wowed audiences at 2017 Fringe Festival. We were excited to talk with him about all things Cabaret and Classical.

Tell us about your background and study?
I started at university as an actor, and then I got into what was then called Theatre Arts at WAAPA, which later became part of the School of Contemporary Arts. However, I discovered that I really wanted to sing. When I was about 23, I took up singing lessons and unlike acting, I was not a natural. After years of hard work, I was accepted into the Certificate of Music Theatre and it was there that I went onto Classical Singing, accepting a place in the Certificate. It was really nice to get into a genre where you felt wanted and accepted, enjoying all the people I was studying with and learning from all the older kids. During my time in the Certificate, I got asked to be in Britten’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream and it was the first time that I thought “maybe I’ll give classical a go”.
After finishing my time at WAAPA, I successfully auditioned for Manhattan School of Music (MSM) in New York. I decided not to go because I couldn’t afford it but ended up living there for two years anyway, working with the exact same teachers privately for a fraction of the cost.
What was the difference between working in the USA and Perth?

During my time at WAAPA, there were people in every year who would turn up to their first rehearsal for a show and sight read or listen to other people. That does not fly in the States. You are expected to have all music off book and as a result, you can get through more in your rehearsals. You have to be strict otherwise you don’t learn discipline – and that’s a skill you need to learn.

What made you return to Perth?

I came back to surprise my mum for her 60th birthday. While I was back, I began to realise that it’s really pretty in Perth and very picturesque. I needed to get away to be able to see that. New York is a fantastic city, but it has nothing on Perth in terms of beauty… and it smells!

After returning to Perth, I received a couple of gigs where I was expected to perform as “Camp Clint” and I realised that I didn’t want to do that. I just thought that there had to be more than this in performing, because I didn’t want to do that for the rest of my life. So I put an application into Fringe with my idea of Cougar Morrison.

I got the courage to produce Cougar from living in New York. I knew it was something nobody was currently doing in Perth. I feel like Cougar is a little edgier than drag and five years ago, drag in Perth wasn’t as widely accepted and embraced. Cougar is essentially an expansion on everything that makes ‘Clint’ not fit in a box. Being a gay man in the Western World, you are absolutely expected to look or act a certain way. If you don’t fit that, you get the feeling that you are less worthy and less desirable. Cougar was my way of saying “I don’t fit: but I’m still going to do this.”

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Tell us about Disgraceful Cougars, you’re upcoming Fringe show.

It’s a hilarious rampant romp about being older in a youthful industry with many hilarious tales. Disgrace Kelly (better known as Perth mezzo-soprano, Caitlin Cassidy) plays an aspiring opera singer and I play the role of her more youth advanced ‘fag-hag’ friend/stage mum, Cougar Morrison who accompanies her to auditions. Together, Disgrace Kelly and Cougar Morrison make the Disgraceful Cougars, proving that being a Cougar is not for the bad.

What do you think the importance of Classical Technique is in Cabaret?

100% longetivity. Whilst performing in Melbourne, I got really sick with a viral infection and the only way I could get through the show was with support. You don’t truly know what support is unless you’ve done classical singing.

There’s also a parallel between drag and opera in the sense that you can’t get good at either without doing the work. There’s a lot of trial and error.

Advice for Classical Singers who may want to delve into Cabaret?

Find what you do better than anyone else out there and become a champion at that. If it means you have to write a whole show from scratch – do it. It’s a lot of work. Nothing will come to you easily. Unlike opera, there are no cabaret companies: You are your own company.

If you could see any book, movie, TV show or historical event turned into an opera, what would it be and why?

  • Golden Girls in my first immediate choice because I love it. However, singing opera in a Southern American accent would be hugely difficult.
  • The Vicar of Dibley in the style of Gilbert and Sullivan would be awesome.
  • The X-Men Cartoon from the 1990s had such over the top characters that would work for opera!

Disgraceful Cougars runs from the 15th-19th of February at the Salon Perdu Spiegeltent. Tickets start from $16 and can be purchased here.

Interviewed by Ema Rose Gosnell
Transcribed by Alessia Pintabona