Sydney poet, performance artist extraordinaire, Candy Royalle, prepares for yet another round of intelligent entertainment, with FRIDA PEOPLE this time at the Seymour Centre. Backed by musical trio Sloppy Joe’s and with guest appearances by one of Sydney’s leading underground burlesque performers, Betty Grumble, you can be sure that Candy will achieve her vision for this show:
“My hope is that people leave feeling like they just ate a big plate of soul food but that it also stimulates dialogue and conversations on some hard hitting topics.”
Tell us a bit about you… growing up, influences, supporters… elements that led to this current path?
I’ve been writing since I was very young. I first discovered writing poetry as an alternative to keeping a diary – it felt more personal, more intimate but also somehow safer. The actual beauty of crafting nuanced and powerful pieces didn’t come until much, much later.
I felt very unheard when I was young and poetry allowed me space to express myself. I didn’t read much poetry when I was young (an appreciation for reading poetry came much later). When I was 18 a friend took me to a performance poetry night and I was instantly hooked. I knew that I had found my home and that this was the path I wanted to be on. That being said, I didn’t actually take the serious, full time plunge into being a full time professional artist until 5 years ago
Is there any kind of formal training? How did you get such a good grasp on this art form?
There isn’t any formal training for performance poets in Australia (though a few of us now facilitate masterclasses and workshops). I learnt and honed my craft through taking risks, making many mistakes, immersing myself in poetry – all forms and styles. I rehearsed relentlessly, asked for constructive criticism from people I trusted. Failed, tried again, succeeded and still sometimes fail. I’m still learning. Every gig is part of the process of being better. I believe I still have a long way to go before I’m a truly incredible poet and performer.
Have your values, individualism and, at times, confronting political views ever been received negatively? e.g. “You can’t silence the will of the people through violence” as heard on Will of the People?
For many, many years I tried to fit in with wider society. Worked in the corporate world. Tried to look “normal”. I was supremely and incredibly unhappy. I experienced something of a breakdown and realised I had to start living the way I truly believed I should be.
I suppose I essentially “unplugged” in a lot of ways. I found myself, the real me, and have been unapologetically me since then.
The same with my politics – I stand by what I believe in which all stems from a great love for and belief in humanity. This has mainly won me many dedicated followers – many more than if I had been pretending to be someone/something I’m not. Of course, there are those who challenge me and others who have walked out of my gigs because they don’t agree with my politics but that rarely happens. I try to present my work in a way that it doesn’t alienate people who may think differently – I’m not trying to shove my political ideals down anyones throat.
I’m just trying to present different ideas to those that are heralded in mainstream media.
I’ve had many more instances of people coming up to me and telling me that I’ve helped them see things in a different light and that for me is always a win (but not what it’s all about either).
How far and wide have you travelled with your talent? Any favourite festivals/events you like to perform at?
One of the greatest joys of my work is getting to travel all over Australia and internationally. I really love being at literary festivals like the Sydney Writers Festival but also music festivals like Woodford and the National Folk Festival. It’s really great to be able to immerse myself in the art of others while I’m there – it feeds the creative beast! Internationally, I love the Austin International Poetry Festival – it’s a great event over three days and always a good excuse to head back to the US. Next year I’ll be there again on my way to the UK and Europe where I’m doing a bunch of shows which is super exciting. I just love being able to connect with people all over the world – I feel so super privileged.
Not so long ago you put out a powerful performance clip informing your fans that you had been diagnosed with ovarian cancer. “Love” had many talking (even my mum viewed it randomly). What was the most significant purpose of this piece for you?
When I was diagnosed with Ovarian Cancer, I knew that it wouldn’t be long before my supporters found out about it and so it was important to me that I took control of that message immediately, and that it was a powerful and positive one – I didn’t want to be viewed as a victim. Yes it was/is a shit situation to be in but I’ve always been a fighter and survivor and I wanted the world to see that I was still going to be that warrior. I think it achieved that purpose – though I can’t watch it now because in hindsight I realise how sick I looked having just come out of a massive operation and still being really unwell! That being said, I’m finished chemo and am now in remission so I suppose I can look back on that video as where I came from 5 months ago and where I am now already.
You now have bunch of shows coming up at the Seymour Centre later this month and early December. What can punters expect?
They can expect so much more than poetry! My whole ethos as an artist is to take poetry into non-traditional spaces. I essentially want people to not even realise they’re listening to poetry! HA! Poetry can scare people so I love dressing it up as it were. I’m performing with an incredible musical trio called Sloppy Joe. We’ve worked together before (our first show and album “Stories By Starlight” was nominated for the Sydney Fringe Music Award) and this new show is just the most incredible collaboration I’ve ever experienced.
It’s powerful, entertaining, confronting. It’s a fusion of poetry, song, funk, soul, chaos. We traverse themes such as sex, politics, love and everything else that makes up the human condition.
We have also collaborated with surreal showgirl Betty Grumble so there’s a healthy dose of grotesque burlesque in there too.
Three Shows Only:
Ticket prices – $30 unwaged / $35 waged
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