Fleeting glance at love
Tegan Mulvany, Greg Fleet and Shane Adamczak. Picture: Paul Robinson

For people of a certain age and musical taste, the John Lydon/PIL post-punk classic This is Not a Love Song might come to mind when seeing the title of Greg Fleet's latest play.

Music, memories and the anguish of breaking up and dividing the record collection run through the show, which premieres in Perth at the Blue Room before an expected tour of the international fringe circuit.

Fleet, best known as a stand-up comic since his time on Neighbours in the late 1980s, is gracing both the stage and the screen this month as a sitcom he created more than two years ago is finally getting an airing.

While This is Not a Love Song is about a couple and the way memory colours past relationships, Fleet's TV series Die on Your Feet focuses on the lives of five thinly-veiled fictional comedians making their way in a notoriously difficult industry.

Life and art clearly blur in the eight-part series, airing on Network Ten's Channel One, in which Fleet is joined by Adam Hills in his first acting role, with Alan Brough, Corinne Grant and Tripod alumnus Steven Gates. It also features the late screen legend Bill Hunter in his last TV role.

Die on Your Feet, which first surfaced as a play in Melbourne in 2005, has sat in the can and done the rounds with potential broadcasters for 2½ years since it was filmed during the 2011 Melbourne International Comedy Festival.

"It is about the panic of comedians putting on a show for the festival, and the way they live, being a bit ruthless, morality, having affairs and all the insecurity that comes from being a comic," Fleet says.

"The name comes from the saying that it is better to die on your feet than to live on your knees and because it relates to dying and standing up and dying and all of that."

Fleet mistakenly thought things move quickly in TV land but sometimes glaciers move faster. "It was killing me because I wrote it and I'm in it and I was really excited," he said of the show produced and directed by TV comedy king Ted Robinson.

"And then it just didn't do anything. I didn't understand the way TV is made. I thought, it's down, it's brilliant and it was absolutely killing me. It wasn't until I forgot about it and concentrated on the play, let it go and looked forward to something else. As soon as I did that, it happened."

This Is Not a Love Song, driven heavily by music as a trigger for memories, has Fleet playing a man of 50 looking back on a relationship he had when he was 30.

His younger self is played by Perth actor, writer and musician Shane Adamczak while director- performer Tegan Mulvany plays the love interest. Musician Michael de Grussa plays on stage while the other three contribute their mixed singing talents to songs by The Pretenders, Oasis, the Mamas and Papas and others.

Fleet, 51, was born in the US and grew up in Geelong. He was accepted into NIDA to become an actor but was kicked out after one year for his recreational drug habit. He turned to comedy on the recommendation of his teachers and has since made a habit of weaving his crazy life experience into his manic acts.

He told of his hair-raising trek through Burma in Thai Die and of his decade-long addiction to heroin in Ten Years in a Long Sleeved Shirt.

"I haven't done any theatre for a long time but it just seemed like a cool thing to do," Fleet says. "Both shows exist in this world of comedy-drama. There are moments of deep sadness and drama but everything I do is covered by comedy, so I thought it was a given for me to have comedy in it."

Mulvany, 20 years his junior, is Fleet's love interest in real life too. "We were talking about doing a show about a relationship and she said no one would believe that we are a couple. And I said 'But we are'. And she said people wouldn't believe it so that's when we thought of the idea of getting someone else to play me."

Opening at the Blue Room next week, This is Not a Love Song is set for fringe seasons in Melbourne, Sydney and Adelaide before a return to Perth next year ahead of a tour to Edinburgh, London and Montreal, Fleet says.

"The Blue Room is an incredibly supportive place to get a show up off the ground. There is nothing really like that in Melbourne or Sydney. It is a really good place to start something."

The West Australian

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