Elaine Crombie is best-known as an actor, with an impressive list of credits that include television shows Top of the Lake, Redfern Now, How to Stay Married, and Kiki and Kitty, and theatre works such as Belvoir St Theatre’s Barbara & the Camp Dogs.

 A couple of years ago, however, she premiered Janet’s Vagrant Love in the Spiegeltent at Adelaide Cabaret Festival, sharing her own songs and stories in a performance she described as a mixture of both home truths and comedy. This year she’s brought a stripped-back version to the 2021 Adelaide Fringe, and she’s now added three more performances to her season at Tandanya.

Describe your Adelaide Fringe show in 10 words or less?

Love, loss, childhood trauma & raising blak men.

You’ve previously said Janet’s Vagrant Love is you “on stage, singing my truth”… what are some of the truths you share in the performance?

I share truths of raising my beautiful sons to be proud of themselves and who they are and to love the skin they’re in.

I share my heart within the show and talk about my first true loss of love and friendship.

I share the truth of deaths in custody.

Having established a successful acting career portraying other characters, what drove you to create a solo work focussing on your own story and experiences?

I felt it was time. I definitely clicked into gear when I was approached by Julia Zemiro to be programmed in the 2019 Adelaide Cabaret Festival. I’ve also had my original songs with me for years – it was time to share them.

Are there moments of levity or humour within the performance? Where do these come from?

There’s definitely humour: I’ll aim to tell you something heartbreaking and then rip out some one-liners.

I love comedy and performing comedy. I grew with a mother (Lillian Crombie) who has the most infectious laugh; both her and I have the same laugh. Mum is definitely where I get my comedy bones.

Is this essentially the same work you presented at the Cabaret Festival or have you made changes since then?

The show has been crafted to fit into a theatre space. I’m on my own now on stage ­– just me, my heart and my guitar.

How do you hope the work will impact audiences?

I’m just telling stories, some are mine and some aren’t.  It’s my whole heart, soul and spirit on the stage. You will be moved, you will reflect.

Elaine Crombie is presenting Janet’s Vagrant Love at Tandanya on March 17, 18 and 21.

Read more Adelaide Fringe reviews and previews  here.


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This article is supported by the Judith Neilson Institute for Journalism and Ideas.