In the run up to his long awaited return to Brighton Fringe, the trained clown and bombastic performer Damien Warren-smith talks comedy, Greek gods, and his latest show, with Journalist Emma Taylor.
Damien Warren-Smith returns to Brighton Fringe for a second time as fictitious failed actor Garry Starr.
For those who saw Garry Starr single-handedly save the performing arts at Brighton Fringe last year, expect the same high energy for 2019’s one-off performance in his latest solo show Garry Starr Conquers Troy.
“It’s moved on a little from the first one, but it's still a collection of short scenes with Garry misunderstanding various theatre tropes,” said Damien.
“The first one was Garry Starr performs every genre of theatre within an hour in order to save the performing arts. Now believing he’s saved the performing arts, he decides to write a book on acting. It’s because he’s traced his family tree, discovered he’s related to Garry Starrstacus from Greek mythology and explores Greek mythology while teaching people about his new book.”
Enthralled with the idea of bringing his inventive show to a bigger crowd this year, Damien promises to be just as enthused in his performances as we are to see him. The actor, producer and once trained clown has shot up from a 40-seat space to a 250-seat capacity, with this year’s show.
About this, he said: “I think Brighton Fringe is a particularly fantastic festival. The Warren, where I am, has just got a lovely feel to it and all the staff there and people who run really care about the artists. Compared to something like Edinburgh, Edinburgh is a huge beast. I think you can feel very lost up there. But in Brighton it feels very personal.”
Born in Scotland, Damien grew up in Australia and graduated from the prestigious Actors Centre Australia in 2004. Soon after, the award-winning performer became a theatrical force to be reckoned with, with a CV that boasts everything from acting, writing, producing and studying clown under Philippe Gaulier.
And while Damien developed his skills from the theatre and clown studies, his tragic fallen actor character Garry Starr emerged from somewhere very different. It was while working with his comedy troupe PLAGUE OF iDiOTS and legendary comedy director Cal McCrystal that the first incarnation of the Garry Starr character was born.
“He wasn’t funny really in PLAGUE OF iDiOTS,” said Damien. “He was the MC. He was the straight character that the other characters would bounce off. It was my job to make everyone else funny. And so I came up with this idea of a failed actor called Gary. I think it's probably a mixture of Gary Glitter and Freddie Starr.”
Describing his character’s distinct look, Damien said: “The jacket was the first thing I found and then the ruff collar came later. In fact the preview of the show, I only wore the ruff collar for a couple of scenes and then I took it off. I realised the ruff collar was equivalent to my clown nose – it just automatically made me look like an idiot. So I kept the ruff on no matter what, even if I was wearing nothing else.”
In terms of where Damien ends and Garry begins, the two personalities are intrinsically linked with each other.
He said: “There's quite a lot of me in Garry, or Garry in me. He’s essentially my clown, and a clown is the idiot version of yourself. It’s how you would be if you had never grown up.”
As for what’s next for both Damien and Garry, Damien is headed to Las Vegas in September for a year as a clown in a new circus-style show at the Venetian.
So, is this the end of Garry’s precious spot in the limelight?
“I’ve always said I think there’s a trilogy and then I’ll move on to something else,” said Damien. “At the moment I haven't got any ideas for the third one, well I’ve got a few ideas but nothing set in stone. But Vegas is going to put that on hold for a while anyway.”
Good to know that after his showcase at Brighton Fringe, Garry may not be gone for good and can thoroughly milk a fitting encore.
Garry Starr appeared on Saturday, May 18, 8pm at The Warren: The Hat.