It's a long way from Stratford to Buddies in Bad Times - not just in kilometres but in sensibility, too. Now Bruce Dow, one of the fest's veterans (Jesus Christ Superstar, which went on to Broadway, A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Forum), has made the trip. In Of A Monstrous Child: A Gaga Musical, he plays legendary UK queer performance artist Leigh Bowery, who acts as MC in this decidedly non-jukebox musical take on the life and work of Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta, aka Lada Gaga. Written and directed by queer innovator Alistair Newton, the show features glimpses of some of Gaga's other influences, like Björk, Marina Abramovic and Andy Warhol. See Openings.
Favourite Lady Gaga song?
Just Dance, cuz it's not about just dancing at all - it's about trying not to puke on your friend's shoes! Irony!
What did you know about Leigh Bowery before this show?
Before Alistair came to me with the project, I'd seen iconic images of him, but I didn't know squat. Now, he's a hero.
Bowery's an MC figure in the show. Any similarities to another of your roles, the emcee from Cabaret?
There are certainly dramaturgical similarities - both characters act as conduits for the audience to help them enter the world of the play. But Alistair has written a beautiful and intensely human journey for Leigh. There's more text here with which to work.
Which one of those MCs would win in a cat fight?
They are both dangerous and full of magic. Too close to call.
Craziest outfit you wear in the show?
My birthday suit. Yup: wow.
You're not at Stratford this season. What will you miss most?
The people. They're my family. Stratford has been both my actual and artistic home for 12 seasons over two decades.
What will you miss least?
As with any big family, no matter how much love, there comes a time when you need to stand on your own two feet.
What went through your mind 30 minutes before first going onstage as Herod in Jesus Christ Superstar on Broadway?
"This is your first appearance on Broadway in over 10 years. That's a full generation. This is your debut all over again!" And then I pooped my pants. Just a bit.
... and 30 minutes after the show?
"We did it!" We were representing the work, our company, Stratford and Canada. The collective experience of any work is very important to me.
If he were alive today, what would Bowery be doing?
I don't think he could be alive today. That kind of mad, exuberant, intense, angry talent can't burn long.
What would he think of this show?
I think he'd love it. He'd love the talent and the honesty of the company. Then he'd sue the theatre, shut the place down and remount the show himself, claiming authorship.
Bucket list dream role?
I do have some dream roles, but I'd rather keep them secret. I'm just waiting to find a theatre with the balls to let me do them. And I'm not one to beg!