By Ebony Campbell
In town for the Fringe festival with her debut Perth performance, WAAPA graduate Gillian Cosgriff knocked the socks off a full house on the opening night of ‘This Is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things’. Even ‘The West’ was impressed! A self-described cabaret performer, singer, songwriter and pianist, in reality Cosgriff is a lot more; she’s the voice of Gen-Y women in Australia.
Helping pave the way for female comedians, this singer/songwriter isn’t the least bit phased by the male-dominance in her field. The growth of girl power in comedy ‘isn’t something I’ve ever really talked about, and I’m already sick of having the conversation. I like a lot of the female comedians! People are finally saying “why is this an issue?” Nobody ever says “How do you feel being a female doctor?”, or “Why do we have all these female teachers?” I don’t think being funny is dependent on the junk in your trunk, as it were.’
With over 47,000 YouTube views on her public rendition of ‘Happy’ by Pharrell Williams, Cosgriff is well on her way to becoming the second international star to come out of Logan City, Queensland (Savage Garden being the first). ‘I used to be a Savage Garden fan when I was younger… it was so exciting when I was growing up because it was like a couple of boys from Logan had finally made good.’
Growing up, Cosgriff was exposed to music very early on. ‘My parents weren’t performers but there was always music on in the house. We grew up listening to cassette tapes of musicals, and for some reason it just stuck.’ It would have helped that she was the eldest of five, and her siblings could be enlisted as a cast and crew. ‘I was continually directing, choreographing, producing and starring in my own family lounge-room productions, bossing everybody around. I was a tyrant of a child.’
After starting ballet and piano at the age of five, Cosgriff added tap dancing, jazz classes, singing training, school choir participation, flute and even trombone lessons to her skill set, making the transition into musical performance an obvious choice. ‘Every year I would just add more…I was that kid.’ It’d be easy to be envious of her ‘stupidly supportive’ parents and all the opportunities handed to her, but her down-to-earth and humble attitude makes Cosgriff the kind of girl you’d want to be friends with.
After graduating from The Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts (WAAPA) and returning to the east coast to forge a life in the cultural hub of Melbourne, the talent behind ‘This Is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things’ is busy keeping it real. She currently lives in an apartment ‘you can only fit three people in at a time’ and openly admits that the nicest thing she owns is ‘a Bespoke lamp I won in a magazine giveaway. It’s beautiful and I would never buy it for myself. And now I’ve just got it in my house.’ Relatable? Yes.
Just like the rest of us, Cosgriff has had her share of humorous relationships and they now feature in many of her songs. However, it annoys her to say so. Literally. ‘I really dislike saying the word “relationship” out loud. Not because of what it is, but because of the way it feels in my mouth.’ A taste of said tracks are showcased on her partner’s Youtube channel Real Big Kid (taking advantage of the ‘Play Me, I’m Yours’ installations by Luke Jerram), and they speak for themselves.
After receiving critical acclaim for her Adelaide Fringe Show ‘Waitressing, and other things I’m good at’ in 2011, Cosgriff was asked to lend backing vocals on Kate Miller-Heidke’s 2013 album ‘Night Flight’ after an introduction by a mutual friend. ‘I was always a fan of hers, I really liked her stuff… We got along well and just went and had a thing. She’s great value.’ This 26-year-old is going from strength to strength, and is finally able to rely on her musical talent to support her. As she says; ‘my name is Gillian Cosgriff and I have been waitress free since October last year. It’s been a good year!’
Cosgriff has big plans for the future; ‘I want to do everything, you know. I’m greedy. The people whose careers I admire and aspire to, are people who work in a number of different fields… people like Tim Minchin.’ With Tim Minchin’s ‘tweet’ of approval going out to his 690k followers just last week, this could very well be the last time tickets to her show sell for $25!
‘This Is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things’ is a 60-minute show about self-acceptance, and is as much about the clumsiness of ruining nice things as allowing yourself the freedom to have what you want. If you want to laugh and ‘feel better about yourself because you haven’t done some of the stupid things that I’ve done’ then you have a week to do so. The performance is running at The Noodle Palace until Sunday, 23rd of February. I highly recommend wearing cool clothing and booking your tickets through the Fringe World Website to avoid disappointment.