SHANE Warne is Australia’s most adored and maligned hero. He has arguably been the most talked about man in the country for the last 15 years as he battled fame, failure, fidelity and a ferocious media both on and off the cricket field. So if you can have musicals about singing cats and dancing coal miners, why not one about the sheikh of tweak. Eddie Perfect – who wrote and composed the show, and plays the man himself – spoke to Rob Moore about Warnie’s opening night appearance, why Aussies love the anti-hero and (sadly) sticking it up the Poms.
Did you expect the public’s positive reaction to the show and did you ever dream you’d share a stage with Warnie himself?
I didn’t know what to expect, but it has been unbelievable. We were blessed by Shane walking on stage after the final curtain went up on opening night – it was just a magical moment.
To see a musical about yourself must be a surreal experience and the first time I met him I wasn’t sure if he was going to shake my hand or punch me in the head. But he said that although he was shitting his pants with nerves and there were some moments which made him cringe, we did a great job and went beyond the cheap, easy jokes which he feared we would use.
It’s a pretty left field idea for a musical. How did the show come to fruition?
My manager is a massive Warne fan and about three years ago he joked ‘someone should write Shane Warne the musical’ and I said ‘maybe that isn’t as big a joke as you think it is’.
I’d been looking to write a show and move into full-scale musical theatre and just thought it was an absurd yet wonderful idea. I obviously knew a bit about Shane, because if you don’t know about cricket growing up in Melbourne you get beaten to death with a stump, but I didn’t know that much and I usually despise musical theatre. So in a strange way I think it made me perfectly qualified to write it. Otherwise it could have been the most horrid pile of shit to sit through.
And when did you first present the idea to Shane?
After spending all that time writing it, we were laughing about how funny it would be if we could get Shane involved. So we got in touch with his manager, sent him scripts and the next thing we know we are sitting in the offices of the Shane Warne Foundation waiting to meet him. It was a bizarre moment and my manager was almost speechless. It was like my three years of writing the show were just for an excuse for him to meet Warnie. Thankfully, after a few drinks we persuaded him to come along.
There was no way we expected him to attend and it was incredible that he was so generous with his time and praise. I’ve got so much respect and admiration for him.
We got on very well and I thought we would because, although from very different worlds, there are parallels with what we do – we are entertainers who are incredibly fortunate to be doing a hobby and passion that we love.
How did you go about putting the script together and were there certain themes you wanted to run throughout the show?
Basically he’s just a boy from the Melbourne suburbs who happened to be blessed with a huge talent which thrust him into the limelight. My job was to find out who he really was, what he means and why people invest so much in him.
It would have been easy for me to have him running around in his pants with a mobile phone in one hand and an inflatable penis is the other, but he is actually far more interesting than that. I could have written a stupid romp in three months, but I took it seriously enough to devote three years of my life to it. Shane dominated the front and back pages and his story matters to a broad range of people, a bit like the Beckhams.
He was a maverick in a stuffy gentleman’s game. He changed the way the game was played and had that larrikin, anti-authoritarian character that Aussies love. Like all our heroes from Ned Kelly on he had chips and flaws and said ‘fuck you’ to authority. He represents the best and worst of Australia. We are uncouth, debauched, loud mouthed larrikins who still have a bit of a chip on our shoulder about how we’re viewed by the outside world. There’s a bit of that in all of us. But I think it’s the best Aussie attribute.
Sport allows us to explore and celebrate our other cultural qualities and characteristics.
We are a nation of naturally friendly, fun loving, fit, outspoken and gregarious people.
What were the parts of his life you felt were most important to cover? Was it hard making it fun but still believable?
There were a few boxes we wanted to tick to make it funny and appealing. I went to India to research the bookmaking scandal and think we have captured that in true Bollywood style. The suburban romance with Simone, the Fosters promotional girl he met at a golf event, was also crucial and we went with a ‘dancing with the stars’ metaphor which showed her being promised an elevated life. After Shane realises ‘What an SMS I’m in’ it’s followed by some pretty intense, painful human moments when she decides to break it off. When you’ve fucked things up, the chickens come home to roost and you have to deal with it, it’s just the same for Joe Average as it is for a superstar idolised around the world. We try to have a moral anchor throughout the whole show and leave it to the public to decide what they think of Shane and his actions.
Do you think you could have success abroad with the show?
I think we could have success in any country which is English speaking and identifies with Shane. It’s an interesting insight into what makes him tick and about Aussie culture. I could see it doing really well in the UK. It appeals to a broad cross-section of people who don’t necessarily have to know or like Shane Warne. And it’s not often you have groups of 10 guys there having a ball and laughing their arses off to musical theatre, so we must be doing something right. Hopefully we can then move to the West End so Shane can stick it up
the Poms in England. Again.
SHANE WARNE: THE MUSICAL will playing at Melbourne’s Athenaeum Theatre until January 31st before starting a run at Perth’s Regal Theatre on March 18. It then lands in Sydney in May. Go see it.