Comedian and cabaret performer Jenny Wynter wanted to write something that 'terrified me a little bit'. The result was Viking Mama, a one woman rock opera that sheds light on a day in the life of a Viking mother as she throws together a last minute third birthday bash for her son.
Speaking ahead of Viking Mama's short season at the Judith Wright Centre from 4-7 May, Wynter says the show is wildly outrageous and yet deeply personal. Wynter and her partner have six kids between them. 'I was thinking about what's real to me at the moment, because the best work comes from a personal place,' she explains. And as anyone responsible for raising kids will know, there are days it's hard to get started, let alone keep going. (Yep, I can relate.) 'During those times, all you can do is armour up,' says Wynter. 'It's like going into battle - you have to be brave and muster up the strength sometimes.'
In Viking Mama, Wynter singlehandedly turns out a cast of wild tribe members, including a hyper-inappropriate grandmother and passive aggressive competitive neighbour (don't we all know that type?). Flanking her are the Valkyries, played by Betty and the Betties, a four-piece all-gals a capella group.
Wynter has an enviable track record, having previously performed at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival, Woodford Folk Festival, Brisbane Comedy Festival, Brisbane Cabaret Festival, Adelaide Fringe Festival, Adelaide Cabaret Fringe Festival, Melbourne Fringe Festival, Calgary Fringe Festival and Banff Centre for the Arts, to name a few. Her work features improvisational and musical stylings and combinations of both, with her trademark being comedy songs made up on the spot with audience input.
Show director Russell Fletcher also brings comedic pedigree to bear, given his award winning solo tour de force Jest like Danny Kaye, and as host of the hilarious improvised musical, Spontaneous Broadway. Meanwhile, musical director Peta Wilson has performed at music festivals including the Woodford Folk Festival, Parklife, Island Vibe, Earth Frequency and Splendour in the Grass.
In preparation for her latest show, Wynter delved deep into her own Viking ancestry that her family once would have preferred to keep hidden. 'Viking culture is interesting, if not a little disturbing,' she says, adding that she had to ignore all the savagery to get to the show-stealing silliness. Like all mothers, she reasons, Viking mothers had to face whatever came at them, not knowing whether they would succeed or fail.
Wynter points out that so much of our identity now gets wrapped up in our parenting. 'Historically, if you kept your kids alive, that was great,' she explains. 'Now it's become this prestigious, competitive art form.' Which is why she loves the character she plays in Viking Mama. 'It's a heightened version of me. It's not so much that she's being a good mum - she's trying so hard not to be a bad one.'