Monday, June 5, 2023



Directed by Cal McCrystal – Performed by Damien Warren-Smith

The Q, Queanbeyan - June 3rd.

Reviewed by BILL STEPHENS.

“Disgraced actor, Garry Starr is going it alone. Following his recent dismissal from the Royal Shakespeare Company, Starr is convinced that the performing arts are dying and he is just the man to save them. How will he do this? By performing every genre he can think of in the slightly misguided belief that this will somehow reignite people’s love for the theatre and ultimately save theatre”.

That’s the premise for this thoroughly entertaining hour of silliness performed by Damien Warren-Smith.

Garry Starr is the comedic alter-ego of actor Damien Warren-Smith, himself an accomplished actor whose theatre credits include appearances in a production of “Hamlet” at Lancaster Castle. He also played the role of James in the Australian Television series “Love My Way”.

While furthering his acting career in the U.K. Warren-Smith studied with legendary clown teacher, Philippe Gaulier, following which he formed a comedy troupe “Plague of Idiots” which toured to theatre festivals around the world including the Edinburgh Fringe.

Warren- Smith created “Garry Starr Performs Everything” in 2018 for a season in Las Vegas. He then toured it to Fringe Festivals in the UK and Australia garnering a slew of awards along the way.

With his Afro hair and Elizabethan ruff, Garry Starr is an immediately likable character. He wears a “please love me” puppy dog expression heightened by a trick early in the show involving catching grapes in his mouth, thrown by co-operative audience members.

Starr’s opening gambit, a rapid-fire soliloquy from “Hamlet”, signals his knowledge of his craft. This impression is heightened by his mastery of clowning which comes to the fore as he works his way through a series of delightfully silly impressions of some thirteen theatrical genres including Burlesque; Classical Ballet, (Pavlova’s “Dying Swan” of course), Modern Dance (Metamorphosis no less), Euro-Theatre; (Chekhov’s “Three Sisters” and Ibsen’s “Hedda Gabler” both get a work-out) and some hilarious Butoh impressions performed in a sagging G String.

Audience participation is a major component of the show, at its best in an English Drawing- Room scene for which the script given to his hapless volunteer, had not separated the stage instructions from the dialogue; and an uproarious scene from “Romeo and Juliet” that could not be completed because his Juliet was so embarrassed that she was unable to control her urge to burst into helpless laughter. 

However it was difficult to dismiss the impression that these very willing “volunteers” may have been plants, especially after two well-known Canberra actors bounded on stage to participate in a spaghetti-eating ménage a trois.

But it was the astonishing Masked-Theatre segment, which Starr performed totally naked other than for a grotesque mask and his ever-present ruff, which not only confirmed how far Garry Starr would go in defence of his art, but also raised a question as to what insecurities about his talents to amuse drive such an obviously accomplished actor as Warren-Smith to resort to nakedness rather than rely on his undoubted theatrical skills.

Will Garry Starr's efforts succeed in saving the performing arts ?  It might  be  necessary to have a second look before coming to a decision.   

     This review also published in AUSTRALIAN ARTS REVIEW.