Political satirist Max Gillies is a man of many faces

NO POLLIE’S SAFE: Max Gillies stars in the stage show Once Were Leaders.
NO POLLIE’S SAFE: Max Gillies stars in the stage show Once Were Leaders. Contributed

POLITICAL satirist Max Gillies puts some of our infamous leaders under the microscope in his new show Once Were Leaders.

The funny man will share his memories of a life spent impersonating and lampooning everyone from Bob Hawke to Malcolm Fraser, Robert Menzies and John Howard.

The actor, who is known for his TV series The GIllies Report and Gillies Republic, told APN about his new stage show and how it has been impacted by the recent change in Liberal leadership.

Q: Will you be mentioning the recent Lib spill in your show? If so, how do you plan to tackle it/comment on it?

A: In Once Were Leaders, the only reason for mentioning current politics is to compare and contrast with a bunch of leaders whose duration in office had lasted longer than one electoral cycle. But that has paradoxically meant paying more attention to the recent shuffle of short-term incumbents. No sooner do we elect them than they are bundled off stage left (or right) - either at our whim at the ballot box or their colleagues' in the Caucus room.

Q: So in Once Were Leaders, you pose the question about whether or not we're looking at past politicians with rose-coloured glasses when we compare them with the current pollies. What's your personal view? Is Canberra lacking in current leadership or are we just a bit nostalgic about people like Menzies, Fraser and Howard?

A: Politicians of the past behave no differently from today's, but the microscopic and perpetual scrutiny we subject them to makes for greater timidity. The one thing the leaders in my show have in common is their comparative boldness. I don't think I view any of them through rose-coloured glasses. They are as full of contradictions as they were the first time around - their hubris just as brazen, their foibles just as entertaining. It's just that we got to know them better because they were part of our lives for longer.

Q: How do you think history will remember Tony Abbott and will you add him to your cannon of characters?

A: However much each of them was unable to fulfil our expectations, I always found their political demise poignant to observe. And none more so than that of Tony Abbott, whose departure has been received with almost universal relief.

Q: How will your portrayals of the characters take shape in this new show? You're ditching the "bits and pieces" like wigs and makeup?

A: Doing this show without make-up or prosthetics or wigs is a liberating experience for me. It allows me to focus completely on the psychological journey in each little character study. It throws into sharper relief the quality of my scriptwriters. And my purpose in revisiting these pieces was always to celebrate the brilliance of the three writers who have provided me with such pleasure for a little more than three decades now.

Q: Who's your favourite character in the show to portray? Surely Reagan is heaps of fun?

A: I never had a favourite character any more than a parent could own up to feeling that about any one of his children. Each of them I warmed to for different reasons. If pressed, I would only ever admit to finding just one character I could never warm to, and it's probably best not to single him out. Suffice to say that he was a long-term Premier of the Sunshine State.

Once Were Leaders plays QPAC's Cremorne Theatre Monday through Wednesday

Topics:  john howard malcolm turnbull qpac tony abbott

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