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(generated from captions) has taken London by storm. musical comic Tim Minchin Now he performs on home ground. incredible journey. And novel list Alex Miller's (Theme music) Hello. I'm Jane Hutcheon. Welcome to the program. and bare feet, With his wild hair, panda eyes off the pages of a Roald Dahl book. Tim Minchin could have stepped Dahl's children's novel, 'Matilda', Royal Shakespeare Company was recently staged by England's of composing the score. a 55-piece orchestra spectacular In a few weeks he's commanding in Australia - Tim Minchin versus The Orchestra, finest musicians in which the country's his linguistic aerobatics. play off against during the holidays in London Rachael Brown caught up with him for Matilda between frantic rehearsals

with child actors and musicians. for joining us on One Plus One. Tim Minchin, thank you very much Hello, Rachael. the score for Matilda. Now you've helped compose that you say you were bathed in What was it like to work on material when you were young. I was literally bathed in it. We didn't have water. It was - it was amazing. because of theatre I started my whole music career

because someone who had faith in me a version of Love's Labour's Lost asked me to write some music for music for songs for Matilda and so for me getting asked to write is crazy - coming the full circle - and on a big scale but obviously now at the RSC I don't know - and it being Roald Dahl was, about my relationship with Dahl. I wasn't sentimental isn't it, It's just part of your childhood, in Australian childhood, certainly, just seems pretty ubiquitous and in England as well. Roald Dahl's widow, And I finally met Liccy Dahl, and she just gave me this huge hug and said this is the first time was her word. well, she said 'perfectly' to have her say that But it was incredibly satisfying after that. and nothing else really matters that life's not fair # Just because you find just have to grin and bear it # It doesn't mean that you on the chin and wear it # If you always take it # Nothing will change... # And was it odd bedfellow - the lofty Royal Shakespeare Company? an irreverent Australian comic and but they have the incredibly rare... Well, they are lofty

on commissions ..ability to take risks Shakespeare, so the RSC put on lots of lots of new Russian plays and they do incredible stuff but they also commission musicals - 25 years ago most famously Les Miserables started at the RSC. a similar path. Hopefully Matilda will follow And there is serendipity too. on Matilda ten years prior. I understand you'd asked to work Yeah, for some reason I thought it would make by doing silly tricks little kid who seeks revenge she can move stuff with her eyes and eventually figures out and then gets saved back. and then saves her teacher It's a beautiful arc. based on Matilda? am I allowed to write a musical your score and we'll consider it. They said sort of said you can send I was like 'Score? What's a score?' And so it drifted away I've ever written an email but it remains the only time so, yeah, if you believed in fate you'd believe that was it, I suppose. for Matilda? And do you have high hopes perhaps one day? Could we see it on the West End I hope so. The reaction's been really strong if it didn't go further. and I'd be pretty sad and Broadway I hope it ends up on the West End and, you know, Kazakhstan, and Sydney and Melbourne wherever they want it. is going to do it for me # But nobody else my story # Nobody else is gonna change a little bit naughty. # # Sometimes you have to be of Roald Dahl in you - And there's a little bit My hair's not red! Racist! has that grown with you? Was that all part of your - of your cabaret career? Was that with you at the start Well, no, it sort of landed. that I called cabaret initially I started doing these solo shows being called comedy and that ended up on the look and the persona Then early 2005 I kind of landed and that was kind of involved - stupid and ostentatious, which was very brave at the time and or something. on grand piano But I thought I've got to do this it's totally wrong because if I play a keyboard and started wearing a bit of make-up and I got my hair straightened does lots of stuff. because it just makes you feel... Makes you feel relaxed on stage. And how much hairspray does it take to get your hair - or how little washes does it take What wash are we on now? and then loads of hairspray. ten days, sometimes fortnight. I wash it maybe once a week, of layers of grime. So it's about build-up the better-looking - The more skank it has in it

I hate having clean hair! you shouldn't wash your hair. with a 55-piece orchestra - So you're now you're performing

from overtaking the comedy How do you stop the music or vice-versa? I try not to worry about it at all. very hard to make it In fact, this show, I've worked very, musically independent of the comedy, I've really tried to make a show and the orchestra having a ball. in imagination It's not earth-shattering really broad. but it's certainly stylistically are laughing And it's funny and people but there are 58 musicians on stage you can take these jokes. and we're seeing how sort of macro # Pain I can do # I can have a dark side too too # I can have a dark side # Yipee!... # to cheese There's a 7.5-minute rhapsody that just goes through all through in life all these different movements so that's completely absurd in an arena the size of Rod Laver... and these incredible players of their training ..absolutely committed with every bit and every - you know, sound engineers singing about cheese and stupid me from Perth is what I'm interested in and I think it's making people laugh. 'Really? Why? Why?' And there's one song, I'm in a Cage, which is a paradox on arena comedy... # I'm in a cage... # Where do you get your ideas from? Well, that particular one I went to the O2 Arena which is where the biggest gig on my tour is - or was, last night. And I saw Alicia Keys and she came on stage in a cage and I thought, 'I'm gonna do that,' so I wrote a song called I'm in a Cage and it just goes 'I'm in a cage, I'm in a cage, can you see me, I'm in a cage. I've just got to the stage where I won't go on stage And then suddenly I break into this song about how crap comedy is in arenas. # But I'm quite famous now... #

and it's really just about ego and money, a little bit, and so I just wanted to go, 'Yep, it's about ego and money.' there's no money left so it's just about ego. You've been described as the Richard Dawkins of comedy. You're an atheist and a rationalist and I know one of your songs, the Pope Song, on clerical child sex abuse, and you use the F word more than 80 times, I counted. Is comedy the right or a right forum to address tough, controversial subjects like this? I'm sure it is. I think comedy's the right genre - the whole point is that there's absolutely no limit - there oughtn't to be any limit to what you talk about. That doesn't mean everyone has to watch everything, or like it. And actually, the Pope Song is an interesting one because the Pope Song's actually about sacredness and what we hold sacred and whether the fact that some people hold the Pope or the Koran or whatever sacred

does that mean And the risk of holding something sacred in the face of things like child abuses and having it immune from criticism. So that song's about - the reason is uses so many swear words is to address this idea that, actually, no, you don't get to tell me that your guy is sacred, you know. Bugger him. Actually, I'm a comedian and all the ideas I talk about and writing these satirical songs happened to be the way I felt most comfortable expressing it. # I only read one book but it's a good book, don't you know # I act the way I act because the good book tells me so # If I want to know how to be good it's to the good book that I go # Because the good book is a book and it is good and it's a book... # You know, when matters of faith, without evidence, are out of debates about abortion and out - completely devoid - out of debates about euthanasia, education and homosexual rights, then, yeah, that would be an easy target because we would just be bullying them but, no, it's not an easy target. 'bollocks, not good enough, you can't tell me your book's special # I love Jesus # I hate faggots... # I have Christian friends who say, 'you wouldn't make that joke about Islam,' and you go, 'Are you proud? Are you proud that you've got a religion that doesn't have the history of reprisals?' scared to do a cartoon.' Should you be? No, that's absurd, but we are. It's not all gloom and doom, White Wine in the Sun Has fatherhood mellowed you somewhat? Um, yeah, no, I'm not - when I'm being interviewed and talking about the issues that I am interested in, I can be passionate and serious and on stage I can be ranty and didactic but I'm not - I've always been reasonably mellow, I work pretty hard but I'm not a party guy and I'm not an angry person. I really like my kids - I've wanted kids since I was a kid, so it all makes sense to me. And I'm with my partner whom I've been with since a teenager and I live a very conservative life. But that song means a huge amount to me and gradually is starting to mean a lot to other people as well, # I'll be seeing my dad # My brother and sisters My gran and my mum # They'll be drinking white wine in the sun... # I read you might be looking to do some serious writing or acting. Why the hell would you want to be serious? but I don't think - no, I'd like to act a bit more but it's not something - but, actually, now I'm doing what I'm doing, I've I acted, great, and if I never acted again that'd probably be fine by me. that will be interesting, to see how that goes. Just doing live stuff, mostly. I want to write another musical as soon as I can, I want to get Matilda on the road, hopefully, and, oh, all sorts of stuff. it is a wonderful problem to have - to get to the end of a year like this, which has just almost killed me and getting the orchestra sharp, but incredibly rewarding and I feel incredibly lucky But five years ago I wouldn't have dreamed that I'd be having that problem, I thought I'd have the problem of, you know, how to buy milk. Well, Tim Minchin, thank you very much for giving us some of your time and joining us on One Plus One. It's a pleasure, thanks very much for having me. Alex Miller is one of Australia's top writers. He's twice won the Miles Franklin award and a string of others but his life could have been a very different story. His mother was Irish and his father Scottish and Alex dreamed of a life beyond the grey brick walls surrounding his home so he got on a boat as a teenager, by himself, and came to Australia where he finally found his voice as a story teller. Alex Miller, welcome to One Plus One. Oh God, what a question. I mean, you're asking a novelist, so, probably not a good question to ask a novelist because I feel totally happy and at home and I write full-time and have done for years, so, for my way of life, I'm master of my own day, so I feel totally at home and relaxed with the life I have. So, tell me about the new book. The original impulse for it had something to do with Sidney Nolan. But what happens with me, and it's almost standard,

and I'm happy it's the way it goes, I have an impulse towards a book, an idea, a feeling there will be a good story there for me, and I go to it and what happens is it begins to swing around and swerve in another direction. As you're writing? Yeah, absolutely, as I begin to write. And what happens is my interest and attention will be caught

by another character more than the character who I originally thought I was going to be most interested in. because I understand that's an offer of the imagination, it's kind of - it's where the energy is going to be. So, it started off - you have this inspiration from Sidney Nolan? I've had a life's interest in Sidney Nolan - and originally without knowing it. When I was working as a labourer on the farm in Somerset - I was 15 to nearly 17, two years, two wonderful years, and while I was there an Australian bloke arrived, he'd bought a little manor house and intended to be an English squire-y type of person, he had plenty of dough. And of course he just didn't fit in at all, the local county people weren't interested in him, waited for him to leave, essentially and the only friend he sort of latched on to was me and I was a labourer and I thought he must be a bit weird. But he wasn't, he was just an Australian, my first. And we became friends - I didn't become friends with hunting gentlemen, for God's sake. And I told him I wanted to go to the most un- the freest - as a kid it seemed to me somewhere in the wilderness. Because you didn't feel free at the time? Well, do you? We go in search of freedom. When you're a kid, you've got these wild dreams of whatever - something out there. And he said, 'You ought to go to Australia.' And I knew nothing of Australia. To me, Australia seemed like South Africa, it seemed like that kind of place, It had that feel, that resonance for me about it. And he gave me a book, a little brown cloth-covered book which was illustrated of the outback. And one of them I'll never forget - it was of these silhouettes of stockmen on a verandah, classic little post verandah, bunkhouse, I guess, and out there was just a single line with a dead tree. It was a Sidney Nolan picture but it was actually a photograph. And it said, 'You can ride for months and never strike a fence here.' And it just gripped my heart. I just thought, 'Christ, that is the place, he's right. without knowing it was Sidney Nolan's photo that had set me off, that had grabbed me. I'm interested that you literally told your family You couldn't get on by yourself, you weren't allowed to, you had to be 18 or 21 or something, so you were accompanied, you became - Mum wept, of course, and Dad said, 'It's his life, it's what he wants to do, you've got to let him go.' So I've always been grateful to them for having - I mean, I knew they loved me and I loved them, what was the problem? Looking back, of course, it's not part of your landscape of emotion. and leaving and going somewhere is terrific adventure. What kind of things went through your head? It was just a party. There were half a dozen boys and we were all about my age, I guess, going on 17. We just had a party for six weeks on the boat and did everything imaginable and then got off - I got off in Sydney and grabbed my suitcase and started walking north and got life in a truck that took my all the way to Gympie in Queensland. Now, you became a stockman. Did you ever realise the photo that you'd seen, of the Sidney Nolan? Yes, I did, I got there. And that was Augustus Downs, it took a while - first I worked on a dairy farm in Gympie and I said to them after a while, 'Look, lovely people, great place but it's not really what I want, I'm trying to get to the outback.' They said, 'Why didn't you say so?' So I went downtown and talked to the Australian estates people, they said, 'Can you ride?' 'Yeah, no worries.' And I had been riding in England for a couple of years, so off I went.

They just sent me off to this place in the Central Highlands. Such fabulous people there that I stayed for two years. And then I said him, I mean, it was pretty outback, and he said, 'Yeah, I'll give Reg Nissen a ring.' Reg Nissen was - not a ring, in those days you sent a cable - Reg Nissen was the manager of Augustus Downs Station, 300km north of Cloncurry in Alexis Wright's Carpentaria. He said, 'Yeah, send him.' When I got to the Gulf of Carpentaria that was Sidney Nolan's outback, that was the flat horizon, the one dead tree, the cattle camp with the 30 black stockmen, two white ones - and I'm one of the white ones, and a yellow man who was the head stockman who's a bit of everything - Aborigine, Chinese, white Australian, a mixture, In terms of finding your voice as a writer, When I ran out of options, I think. And I got a job with a funfair, with a carnival, on a ferris wheel. We drove all over the place up there and finally came to Melbourne and there was no ground for this guy in Melbourne - Paddy McCallum was his name -

so I didn't have a job. I was in Melbourne, and I began to write the conversations that I was having in my head that I wasn't having with people I knew. And I kind of - I'd always been a reader and I read a lot of novels and I kind felt the most difficult - what can I do from here? And I can remember thinking the most impossible thing for me to do

like Graham Greene but I thought that's what I'll do then. And that's when I decided to be a novelist. It seem like - well, at least you'll spend the rest of your life trying. You'll have something to do while you're cleaning offices or washing the floor at Myer's - they were jobs I had, you know. So, I then went to Melbourne uni and I read History and English, which was fabulous, and gradually, gradually became a writer. I'm still gradually becoming a writer. as very frequent themes. What is it that you actually want to say? What is your core message? Mm. Wow. Core message. working for some inner soul that knows its core message. Wow. But you do have a core message because it's all woven together in the themes. I don't know. Maybe. I think my novels are my core message. Look, I write about people I love.

I write about people and situations that interest me. I kind of read something somewhere and I thought, 'You know, there's a lot of similarity between me and Sid Nolan.' And then I began to put that story together and the similarity was a rather scary one in that he'd come out of the working class in St Kilda - his dad was a tram conductor - and my dad a cook in London and I lived in council flats and it was sort of equivilant, if you like. And he'd married into people who were highly cultivated, families who were highly cultivated, cultured people with money and he'd wanted, he'd had a hunger for culture in a sense, I married into a very powerful Melbourne family, very wealthy, powerful - low profile family - because they were very careful to guard their name and they took me totally under their wing and said, 'Yeah, this is what you should be doing, we expect great things of you.' Do you ever lose faith in yourself? I used to. And there's the odd day. I don't have the 'black dog', I'm not a depressive person and I am very egalitarian but only when I'm not working when I'm working, I'm at home six days a week, at the moment I'm there in a monkish way - I've come to Sydney to see you, Thanks. Novelist Alex Miller. Before we leave you, a preview of next week's progam. One of the world's most sought-after photographers, Annie Leibovitz, speaking about her current exhibition in Sydney. right after someone you know so well and you love dies, everyone handles it differently and I went plowing through my work to see what was my relationship with Susan and I stumbled across images of my family, my brothers, my sisters, my children being born -

my father died right after Susan died - so it was - I saw in the pictures a sense of everyman and I saw a story and I got very excited about it and, you know - and I wouldn't have looked for those pictures if Susan hadn't died.

And that's our program. You can catch us across the weekend on ABC News 24 and do please go to our website or to see our air times - abc.net.au/oneplusone will get you there. And see you next week. Closed Captions by CSI