Entertainment

Hollywood actor’s Aussie Covid swipe

Not because of Covid restrictions, but rather he couldn’t find his passport. The 56-year-old was freaking out – there was no chance of getting an emergency replacement in time. Back in his New York apartment, he sent his caretaker to his home in the Catskills to search all his usual safe spots, to no avail. In a state of absolute panic for 24 hours, he called on his good friend, and one time New York governor candidate, Sex and the City actress Cynthia Nixon to use all her powers.“As she called to say she’d organised the governor to get me through to the State Department, my caretaker messaged to say he’d found it,” Cummings tells me when we chat while he’s in quarantine in an Adelaide hotel. “It was so embarrassing. I felt so stupid that I caused such a fuss. I do truly feel like I aged 10 years so now I am acting my age.” He’s not normally renowned for acting – nor looking – his age. In fact the celebrated actor and cabaret artist truly is quite pixie-esque and Puck-ish as he nimbly jumps between topics and questions. Those words have often been used to describe Cumming. It used to quite annoy him. “It was like I was a child – I understand what it means now, so I actually quite like it,” he shares.And those terms have helped form his show which will close the Adelaide Cabaret Festival, before touring the nation – Alan Cumming Is Not Acting His Age. He laughs when we ask exactly what age is he acting and confesses he forgets, at times, that he is 56 – and gets “confused’’, when reading scripts, why he is being offered the part of someone in their 50s. “It’s interesting. I’m starting to feel things in my body as it changes and ages,” Cumming shares. “I don’t feel I sound my age or even look my age, or behave like my friends who are my age. Or even some who are younger than I am. “There’s a variety of reasons for that. Partly just because I have a kind of curiosity for things. About seeing new things and new people. “I wasn’t allowed that sort of curiosity in my childhood. So I think I’ve hung on to it much longer than most people do.”The more Cumming chats about his show the more excited he becomes. “There’s all these different themes about age and how we use it as a pejorative,” he explains. “You know, we say ‘oh, grow up!’ like you’ve got to get older. But then at the same time we encourage people to look younger and act younger. “It’s no wonder people – well, I certainly am – are confused about what is acting your age because we are all being given these different messages all the time.” It will be an evening of story and song celebrating Cumming’s aforementioned Puck-ish spirit and joie-de-vivre. He reveals his opening number – “But Alive” which Lauren Bacall sang in little-known Broadway musical Applause. “I heard the song and thought ‘what the hell?, I love this’,” he exclaims. “It’s a great way to open the show – ‘I feel groggy and weary and tragic, Punchy and bleary and fresh out of magic, But alive, but alive, but alive’. I think that’s exactly how I will be feeling when I walk on.”There’ll also be some mash-ups and a very eclectic mix of music – Whitney Houston, Billy Joel mixed in with some traditional cabaret.He was still fine tuning his stories to share, Cumming wanting it to be topical and include the quarantine experience itself. He’s been in mandated isolation in four different counties so he knows better than most, and he rates our system – although given he’s fully vaccinated, Cumming urges Australia to stop lagging behind with our program. “Australia has shown how effective proper quarantine can be – of course it’s easier to do on an island, but Britain hasn’t managed it as well,” he says. “Here it is very regimented, you think you’ll have a lot of time but I’m never off the phone with people checking to see how you are doing. When I was in quarantine in America, I got maybe one phone call. “Mind you the amazing thing since Biden’s been president, the vaccination program’s been outstanding. I have noticed that Australia is lagging behind in that department. That probably needs to change.” He’s played God, the Devil, Hitler, the Pope, a teleporting superhero, Hamlet, all the parts in Macbeth, and the MC in Cabaret in the West End and on Broadway so you’d think he’d be itching to be back on stage. But Cumming is philosophical when asked if he misses it, saying he’ll get songs in his head and think “I can’t wait to perform that”. “It’s not as if the thing that I’m missing is even really happening right now,” Cumming explains. “It’s a quite good thing that is in-built in my constitution. I don’t miss things until I miss them. A lot of people miss things beforehand. You know ‘Oh, I’ll miss you’ and I’m like ‘well, miss me when I’m actually gone’. I don’t miss things that aren’t possible to miss.” But he can’t wait to stand centre stage again. It will be his first major foray in front of an audience since the Covid-19 pandemic started its devastating march across the globe. He confesses he’ll need to get match-fit, well, dance-fit. “I’ve realised I’ve got to do some dance practice – if I jump around for two minutes, I’m out of breath,” Cumming laughs. “I’m going to put my headphones on and practise getting my dance moves back up to a couple of hours in a row.”And he’s got to don stylish clothes for the first time in 18 months, hoping his suit for the Festival’s red carpet gala will still fit. He jokes he’s going to design a line of clothes which is stylish suits but basically pyjamas. Cumming is also totally wishing he was in pyjamas on his Adelaide quarantine hotel balcony after photographers snapped him in just his shorts.“I thought ‘Oh God – you’re squinting at the sun and your tummy is not held in’,” Cumming cringes. “It’s so horrible that my first pap shot in a year-and-a-half is me with my belly sticking out.” He ruffled more than a few feathers after posting a pic on his Instagram of his snack of vegemite and rice cakes – with the iconic Aussie spread thickly layered and not a hint of butter underneath.“I’m a big fan – I have vegemite back in New York all the time, it’s not just because I am in Australia,” Cumming explains. “But I got such crazy comments. People were furious that I put too much on. I didn’t realise it was such a hot topic. I love Vegemite, to me that was a perfectly good amount of Vegemite. Just let me be.” He truly is a massive fan – it’s actually what he’s looking forward to most food-wise when he leaves quarantine. “I love getting breakfast in the Qantas lounge and having toast and marmite – I mean vegemite?,” Cumming enthuses. “That was my favourite. I don’t normally eat bread. But I love that little machine, the assembly line type toaster. I’m so looking forward to that.“And delicious Australian wine. I’m having a dry quarantine so I’ll be a cheap date by the time I get out.” Alan Cumming Is Not Acting His Age June 30, Lyric Theatre, QPAC Brisbane; July 1, Enmore Theatre, Sydney; July 2, Plenary, MCEC, Melbourne; July 4, HOTA, Gold Coast; July 1 & 5, Enmore Theatre, Sydney; July 9, Riverside Theatre, Perth. Tickets through frontiertouring.com

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