My Gay Toronto - Bellini's 8 1/2

Punk, theatre and strength from a fallen idol

by Paul Bellini

“I was just watching a clip of you launching a book,” said Daniel Tobias. “You were reading some stuff about hor d’oeuvres.” He’s referring to my book launch for The Fab Columns that somehow ended up on YouTube. I can’t help but be a little flattered that the man I am about to interview did some research on lil’ ol’ me. What a gentleman.

Daniel is in town to perform his one-man show The Orchid and the Crow. It’s the story of a bohemian artist who is diagnosed with stage 4 testicular cancer. Searching for strength, he finds it in Lance Armstrong – before the scandal.

“The show isn’t really about cancer. It’s about faith. Cancer caused me to examine faith,” explains the Melbourne-based artist. “What got me through it was reading other people’s stories, particularly Lance Armstrong’s story. I grew up a Jewish atheist. I saw Lance as a modern messiah. He was not what we thought he was. It was disappointing for a lot of people, hearing how he crushed people’s careers as well as took performance enhancing drugs. My experience happened before we knew all this about Lance. Prior to 2013 I would have given someone Lance’s book for inspiration.”

Daniel hit big years ago with the Australian band Die Roten Punkte, founded alongside Clare Bartholomew, who co-writes all the songs. They still perform, and in fact will play various dates throughout the play’s Canadian tour. The Orchard and the Crow contains many songs, most written by the duo, but not exclusively. “The show is an eclectic mix of rock songs, some real musical theatre cabaret songs, an indie ballad, even an Italian aria,” he tells me.

Prior to the Toronto run, Daniel will bring the show to London, Ontario,  and then Montreal, Ottawa and later Winnipeg, finally landing at the Edinburgh Fringe across the pond. I couldn’t help but notice that Daniel appears bald in the show. Is it to reference chemotherapy? “I shaved my head even before I got cancer,” he laughs. “It’s male pattern baldness. The cancer scare was ten years ago. My life now isn’t any different than it was before. I was really fortunate. I got through to the other side and everything works the way it’s supposed to.”

The Orchard and the Crow is written and performed by Daniel Tobias and directed by Christian Leavesley. It plays July 2 to July 11 at the Al Green Theatre. Check the Toronto Fringe website for details.