Internationally ignored song stylist
HEDWIG, internationally ignored song stylist hits Australian shores.
John Cameron Mitchell is in Australia to personally introduce us to all the wonderful delights of the "internationally ignored" punk rock singer Hedwig, from the glam rock musical 'Hedwig and the Angry Inch'.
When we talked to John, he was in the car on his way to see koalas with two-time Grammy Award winner Patti LuPone. Not many people get to say they did that. Koalas aside, if you've not heard of John Cameron Mitchell, he's an American actor, writer and director.
John is of course best known for his cult musical and film 'Hedwig and the Angry Inch' — an original 'glam-punk rock musical' about a German immigrant living in a trailer in Kansas. Hedwig, who was a victim of a botched sex-change operation, is on a mission to find stardom and love.
His story 'Hedwig and the Angry Inch' is loosely based on John's personal life story. His father was a military commander in Berlin, and after that his family settled in Kansas where John's babysitter, Helga (who also moonlighted as a sex worker) was the inspiration for Hedwig. Hedwig's lover, Tommy Gnosis was originally based on John himself.
When I saw 'Hedwig and the Angry Inch' it was the first time a movie really changed the way I thought about gender and what it meant to be queer — it's something that John has heard many times, and he spoke about how gratifying it is to hear.
John Cameron Mitchell reprises his role as Hedwig for shows in Australia.
"Hedwig helps people look at the world through a different lens. If you think about queerness, it's less about sexuality and more about looking at the world through the prism of gender, realising that it's quite fluid and that it's connected to power, beauty and creativity."
'Hedwig' first hit the stage over two decades ago, so we asked John how he thought the show resonated with today's millennials, especially considering the current political environment in the US where John lives.
'Hedwig and the Angry Inch' certainly has some universal themes, and John explained that there is currently a panic about government and justice in the US.
"It's causing a hapless rage where people everywhere are lashing out at each other."
It seems that just like Hedwig, people are feeling betrayed and angry.
"People can get drunk on victim-hood, and that's Hedwig, she's a victim, she's bitter, and she's lashing out!' it's cathartic."
With the way things now are in the US and after talking to John, it struck me that if anything 'Hedwig and the Angry Inch' and it's many metaphors may be even more relevant now than it was twenty years ago.
"Wig in a Box" - Hedwig and the Angry Inch
Amidst all this bravado, it's important to remember that 'Hedwig and the Angry Inch' is also about the search for love and the healing of wounds — it's just one of the concepts that make the story and the music so powerful.
Based on Plato's symposium, which tells the story of how the gods cut us in half and now we are all forced to seek our 'other halves', "The Origin of Love" — which is not only Hedwig's first song but the one closest to John’s heart — is the central metaphor on which the whole story hangs. This also happens to be the name of his current show that’s touring Australia in June and July.
I think we can all connect and identify in some way with Hedwig and her super-charged search for love and answers. Sometimes we've have no choice in what happens around us or to us, and we unconsciously seek out others to help us understand why things are the way they are. After all, no matter how broken we are, it seems that love can heal many deep wounds.
There is a lot to love about John and his ability to tell an amazing story about human connection and struggle.
Music, humour and drag all feature in John's new show 'The Origin of Love' as he sings songs of love and tells the stories of Hedwig.
John didn’t really expect to be on a world tour at the age of 55 he told us with a laugh. "The joke is, I used to be a tour de force, and now I’m forced to tour."
Sadly John's mum has Alzheimer's, so he said part of his reason for touring is to raise money to help pay for her health care. It's even more reason to make sure you don't miss 'John Cameron Mitchell: The Origin of Love.'
John will perform the much-loved punk rock songs from 'Hedwig' as well as preview a selection of songs from his upcoming musical podcast 'Anthem'. His recent performances have been hailed as alternatively hilarious and harrowing.
"With raw spontaneity, he truthfully embodies all of Hedwig's anger, self-pity, bravery and wit."
AM New York
So put on some make-up, turn up the eight-track and pull the wig down from the shelf, for a night of post-punk, neo-glam rock — a collective quest for love, hope and identity. For fans and newbies alike, the show is certain to be intimate, eye-opening and devilishly funny.