Spanky a man of many muses
Spanky in Dead Bitches.

Cabaret star Spanky says the late Amy Winehouse and his straight-talking Kiwi mum were among the many muses for his latest show Dead Bitches.

The cross-dressing performer - who stormed last year's Fringe World as party-hearty Mr Sister Candice McQueen - this year returns with a new alter-ego in head nurse Raelene Dakota Honeypot.

On the eve of the end of the world as predicted by the Mayan calendar, Nurse Honeypot is visited by three ghostly visions or dead bitches - one of them Amy Winehouse.

"Raelene is the nurse who looks after the souls of all the young, dumb, beautiful and totally f…ed-up people before they go into the club," explains Spanky, aka Rhys Morgan.

"Some of the material is kind of heavy but it's all wrapped up in a cabaret comedy."

The show is designed as the second instalment of what will be a cabaret trilogy that started with Candice McQueen: Nasty! which returns this year for an encore season after taking out best-cabaret award at last year's Fringe.

Morgan says music drives the story in Dead Bitches which features covers of songs from the 1960s through to today. Although Winehouse appears as a character, Morgan won't be singing her songs.

Tracks will instead be borrowed from an eclectic array of artists, including James Blake, Joni Mitchell, Roisin Murphy, Prince, Natalie Merchant and Lady Gaga. They'll be given bluesy reworkings to a wall-of-sound by guitarist Chris Boroff on a 1978 Fender Stratocaster and looper, as opposed to the acoustic versions of 90s pop in Candice McQueen.

Morgan says both shows delve into themes of fame, celebrity, addiction and pop culture, topics he finds weird, heartbreaking and fascinating.

"Four years ago I found a website that was offering a free iPod if somebody could predict the date Amy Winehouse would die," he says with dismay, before recalling the late musician's 2008 Bestival performance.

"People weren't going to see her as the amazing practitioner that she was, they were going to see her to see what kind of state she'd turn up in. People were going to see the ghost train and I found it really difficult."

Additionally, River Phoenix's death had a profound impact on Morgan as a teenager. It fuels many of the themes in Candice McQueen, who falls in love with a fallen 90s screen idol and embarks on a mission to save their lives.

"What is it about the 27 Club? It's insane. It's just really, really weird," he says.

"I don't have the answers. I'm just kind of putting it out there."

Part of his exploration of celebrity culture and death in Dead Bitches involves inventing a tough nurse to whip the self-pitying deceased icons into shape. Morgan says the no-nonsense Nurse Honeypot is based loosely on his "firecracker" Kiwi mother, also a nurse.

"Not only does the accent sound funny but I think there's something really in these people who are real sharpshooters and they shoot from the hip. They don't take any prisoners and don't take any s… either. But underneath they've got hearts of gold," he says.

The New Zealand-born performer - who became a London cabaret legend during his seven-year residency at the infamous Bistrotheque venue - has also written the script for Twists & Turns, the debut solo cabaret show by Olympic diver Matthew Mitcham.

It is the first show Morgan has penned for another performer and explores familiar issues of fame and addiction, as well as Mitcham's battle with depression and his decision to come out as gay before the Olympics.

Candice McQueen Nasty! is at De Parel Spiegeltent, Perth Cultural Centre, from February 5-9; Dead Bitches is at The West Australian Spiegeltent in the Pleasure Garden, Russell Square, from February 10-18.

The West Australian

Popular videos

Compare & Save

Our Picks

Compare & Save

Follow Us

More from The West