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Damien Warren-Smith AKA Garry Starr - Interview

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by Tema (subscribe)
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One of the most recognisable and popular Fringe artists and alter egos Garry Starr will be returning to Adelaide with his eccentric style of comedy that has won the hearts of his fans quite effortlessly.

But, who exactly is Garry Starr? What's his story? Why is he the way he is? And why do you need to go to his performance(s)?
I had a chat with Damien Warren-Smith, who plays the whimsical character, where we discussed all the finer, behind-the-scene details about Garry, in anticipation of his much-awaited arrival (back) in Adelaide this year for the annual Adelaide Fringe festival - have a read of our exchange below:

Tema: Can you tell us a bit about yourself, Damien?
Damien: Having grown up in rural Australia with dreams of stardom I got my break as the character Jackson Bryce on internationally regarded TV show Neighbours before being snapped up by the Royal Shakespeare Company to play Romeo in their international touring production. This dream ended rather abruptly when I was fired due to 'artistic differences' which in reality meant that Benedict Cumberbatch (who was playing Mercutio) got annoyed that he kept dying at the beginning of Act 3 and I didn't have to die until the end of Act 5 and because he was sleeping with Dame Judy he had quite a lot of sway. That's when I decided to make my own show.

Photography by Joseph Till

Tema: What inspired you to come up with the concept of your show?
Damien: Revenge.

Tema: How long have you been part of the comedy industry? How have you found your involvement in this industry so far?
Damien: Comedy? How very dare you!

Tema: When you say "Garry Starr Performs Everything"...what exactly is "everything"?
Damien: Every single genre of the performing arts known to man/woman/undecided. From burlesque to butoh and everything in between. Nothing is sacred.

Tema: What can people expect from attending your show?
Damien: Ok, I can't lie, it's hilarious. Expect to be impressed and appalled and dumbfounded and maybe mildly (very mildly) educated.

Photography by Dallas Bland

Tema: How would you explain your performance to someone who has never been to your show before?
Damien: It was once described by a reviewer as 'an anarchic play date with a six-foot-two toddler with a mop of fuzzy hair, no inhibitions and far too much raspberry cordial on board. It's an exhilarating feeling.' I'm yet to find a better way of describing it.

Tema: I see that you'll also be performing a show called Garry Starr Conquers Troy - can you elaborate on what people can expect from that show?
Damien: Following the success of my first show, I was compelled to write a book on acting. 'An Actor Pretends: How To Do Good Acting' will give rebirth the ancient art of Pretendism by charting the dangerous rise of Method Acting (derived from the word Methadone) through Greek Mythology. It's going to make a lot of sense and be very profound and meaningful and not at all silly. Maybe.

Image sourced from the Adelaide Fringe website

Tema: How did you get involved with the Adelaide Fringe? What made you want to be a part of the Adelaide Fringe?
Damien: I first visited Adelaide in 2002 while on a break from studying Thespianism at The National Institute of Dramatic Art. My girlfriend at the time (affectionately known to Adelaidians as 'Abby-from-The Mole') was from Glenelg, which turned out to be a real place. I first brought a show to Adelaide in 2015 with my company 'A Plague of iDiots' and we had a blast. I'd been looking for a reason to come back ever since.

Tema: How many years have you been involved with the Adelaide Fringe? How have found the experience(s) of being involved with the AF?
Damien: This will be my third year. I've always found the audiences warm and receptive and the staff who run the festival are the most helpful you'll find anywhere in the world.

Tema: Have you taken your performance interstate / overseas? If so, where have you performed and what has that experience been like?
Damien: Adelaide was where I premiered this show last year. I then went on to play another 6 festivals in Australia and the UK culminating in a sell-out season at the Underbelly in Edinburgh. My new show will also premiere in Adelaide with a short run this very year!

Tema: What are you anticipating from the Adelaide Fringe this year?
Damien: I expect I will be tired, sore, challenged, but ultimately, very happy. My show played to single figure audiences in the first week last year but word of mouth spreads like wildfire and by the end of my two week run I had 80 people crammed into my venue!

Tema: Is there anything else that you'd like your audience / our readers to know about you and your show?
Damien: Sit at the front.

Book tickets to Damien's shows here:

Garry Starr Performs Everything || The Garden of Unearthly Delights || Stirling Fringe || Feb 15 - Mar 3

Garry Starr Conquers Troy || Gluttony || Feb 15 - 17
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Why? Honestly, why wouldn't you?
When: Adelaide Fringe season
Where: Gluttony // Stirling Fringe // Garden of Unearthly Delights
Cost: $$
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