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Images in bubbles of Graham Hosking as a child and grown up

When I Was Little: 
The Listies

Kaila Keen

When I Was Little is a new series where we interview the theatre-makers and creatives who bring magic to our stages, and wonder to our little ones. 

Australia's favourite kidult comedy duo The Listies are introducing Shakespeare to kids with turbo-charged story-telling and silliness! We spoke to Matt and Rich about Shakespeare, fart jokes and what they would tell their five year old selves.

Tell us more about how you’ve translated Shakespeare for kids using comedy and fart jokes in Hamlet: Prince of Skidmark....

Rich: Fart jokes? How dare you! On the contrary, we intend to do an entirely serious and painfully accurate rendering of the bard’s Hamlet. Our version will contain no fart jokes and lots of long long speeches. Hopefully it will go the full 5 hours- or even longer!

P.s. It won’t contain the words: Bum, poo, turd, dung, snot, wee, skidmark, fart, fluff, guff, air biscuit or fartle (to startle someone with a fart), all of these words are to rude to say, stage or print. (Please remember to black these words out – EDITOR)

Matt: Also, based on a quick google search, it appears Shakespear is full of fart jokes. Here’s a few of her other plays:

King Rear
Taming of the Loo.
Much Ado about Fluffing.
Romeo and Pooliet.
Gas, You Like it.
Richard the Turd.
All Smells that End Smells.

BTW. I haven’t actually read the play yet (I fell asleep), but I’m sure Hamster will be easy to stage.

The Listies on stage dressed in shakespeare costumes

The Listies performing their show Hamlet: Prince of Skidmark. Image: Prudence Upton

What do you want kids to take away from watching the show?

Matt: Not the chairs or the carpet. Mr Utzon would be furious if kids start ripping up the Opera House’s fixtures and took them home to decorate their bedrooms. That said it would be an entertaining legal battle and a great idea for the next season of Underbelly.

Rich: Matt’s right. Leave the chairs and carpet. Maybe instead they could take away the idea that writing and creating your own stories is tremendous fun. And the idea that being silly doesn’t have to go away when you’re a grown up. THAT SAID, any snacks found on the floor of the theatre are legally ours.

The listies in hamlet costumes holding a skull, sword and book

Rich Higgins and Matt Kelly are The Listies.

“Being silly doesn’t have to go away when you’re a grown up.”

What is your earliest memory of watching live performance as a child? 

Matt: I’m from rural NSW and remember watching Don Spencer playing music at Tamworth Shopping World. He called me up onto stage and asked me to sing all of the colours of the rainbow. I got scared, cried until my mum had to rescue me. It was a raw expression of emotion and the peak of my artistic career.

Rich: I’m from a village called Kessingland in the UK and the first memory of seeing a live show was a Pantomime at the Working Mans Club where my Mum worked (like an RSL). I can’t remember what the play was, but it had a spooky bit where they played ‘The Monster Mash’ and it scared me so much I ran out of the theatre! I am only slightly braver now.

What did you want to be when you grew up?  

Matt: A kangaroo. I used to put my backpack on my front side, pretended it was a pouch and hopped to school.

Rich: Incredibly mature, cultured, intelligent, responsible but most of all, humble. I have achieved all these goals.

“Being silly doesn’t have to go away when you’re a grown up.”

Does what you do as an adult allow you to stay true to your childhood dreams?

Matt: Sometimes I still wear my backpack on my front, only now I hop my way to work. Quarantine was VERY long in Melbourne and I had to do what I could to stay entertained. In my backpack are the same things now as I when I was a kid. A funny book, a pad and pen to write down jokes, ideas for stories, and draw pictures of unlikely animals on skateboards. Here’s one I prepared earlier: 

Matt's drawing of a dugong

An unlikely drawing of a dugong on a stakeboard. Artist: Matt. 

Rich: Basically yes. I mean when we are not performing we are writing and illustrating kid books and having ideas for kids TV shows. It’s pretty good TBH.

If you could tell your 5 year old self something, what would you say?

Matt: Your whole life people will tell you to get your finger out of your nose and stop being silly. DO NOT LISTEN TO THEM. One day it will be your job and it will take you all the way to the Sydney Opera House!

Rich: Don’t climb that lamp-post and slide down it like a fireman’s pole when you are 7. The adult tooth you break will not grow back. Other than that, carry on reading comics, looking for conkers (google it) and listening to Monty Python records and it will all turn out fine!

The Listies are bringing their show Hamlet: Prince of Skidmark to our stage for laugh out loud family fun this summer. Get tickets now. 

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