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PROFILE: Celebrating a "Jersey kind of queerness"

PROFILE: Celebrating a

Sunday 11 July 2021

PROFILE: Celebrating a "Jersey kind of queerness"


From training with an opera singer in India, to an affair with a bagpipe player in Spain, academic life in York, a ‘bubbly’ cabaret, and now getting down with dolmens… a local performer has opened up about his life, career, and how he is celebrating "specifically Jersey kind of queerness" in his latest shows.

Dr Adam Perchard's upcoming show 'The Thirteenth Fish' will immerse viewers in Jersey’s Neolithic past, bringing to life the people who erected the stones and were buried amongst them through an hour of “theatrical ritual, magic and song”.

Ahead of the show, Express caught up with Dr Perchard to discuss his life and career to date, which are as colourful as one of his performances...

To describe Dr Perchard's work in only a few words would be impossible: he moves from opera, to theatre, cabaret, comedy and academia at such a dizzying speed that he himself admits his life once felt “fragmented” until he eventually found himself in “a lovely space” where he could do all those things at once.

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Pictured: Adam's story started in India where Situ Singh Buehler, the only western trained opera singer in the country, taught him all the great female parts from opera. (D+T Ellis)

“I could have never foretold the journey, there have been so many twists and turns," he reflects. "For the longest time, I had no idea what was going on with my life because of all the different parts. I could have never predicted that, I imagine it’s only going to get weirder and more gorgeous.”

His story opens in India, where Adam grew up, with Situ Singh Buehler, the only western trained opera singer in the country, who taught a young boy with an “unusually high voice” to sing all the great female parts from opera.

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Pictured: 'Bathtime for Britain' enjoyed a sold-out run at Jersey Arts Centre in May. (Credit: Wayne Stewart)

“No one batted an eyelid,” Adam recalls, remembering how someone once told him he was the reincarnation of Maria Callas.

“I did not know I was queer at the time, but it was a wonderful safe space where I could play with gender.”

When Adam returned to Jersey aged 15, he recalled the singing establishment being “confused and worried” about a teenage boy singing female voices and what he describes as “vocal transvestism”.

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Pictured: Adam moves from opera, to theatre, cabaret, comedy and academia at a dizzying speed.

Feeling restricted by the conservative repertoire that was offered to him, Adam let classical singing go for a while and went to Oxford to learn English. There, he admits he wasn’t the most “studious”, instead writing and performing with the Oxford Revue.

But the English course also felt restrictive – “you could go three years without reading anything from someone of colour” – so Adam moved to Spain to write his autobiography, a project he stopped after having an affair with a local bagpipe player.

With a “love for literature” he felt he hadn’t given enough attention to during his time in Oxford, Adam then decided to return to academia. This led him to start a “double life” between York and its “serious conversations” and ‘Bother’, a pop performance act with Ian Godden, which he describes as “lovely and weird”. 

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Pictured: “What I have realised now is that I was a writer and an artist fascinated by various issues, but academia was never the outlet for it,” Adam said.

He then discovered an “urgency” in researching the western representation of Islam through history. “I found a niche about the many relationships between contemporary views of islamophobia and what was happening in the 1800s, which was the inception of a lot of present-day rhetoric.”

As enthralled as he was by his research, Adam admits a “whole part” of him missed performing. “What I have realised now is that I was a writer and an artist fascinated by various issues, but academia was never the outlet for it,” he said.

Luckily, in 2017, a commission from the University of York for a “queering of Romantic poetry”, which saw him singing poems set to Bonnie Tyler’s songs, showed him how the two could combine.

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Pictured: "Comedy is a very special genre; you can think in a really nuanced way," Adam said.

‘Lyrical Power Ballads’ quite literally set the stage for Adam’s first solo show, ‘Tales of Fashionable Life’ a queer re-reading of Maria Edegworth’s novels. “That was really where a lot of my current impetus comes from  me really mingling skills as a scholar and a thinker with my creative ideas,” Adam says.

Since 2014, Adam has also been performing in the critically acclaimed queer comedy troupe ‘Sex Shells’, which started life in the basement of straight club before being discovered by Jonny Woo, going to Edinburgh Fringe twice and enjoying a sell-out run at the Soho Theatre.

“There was a lot of darkness we were able to talk about through comedy - it was riotous, raucous, lewd, rude and crude. Comedy is a very special genre; you can think in a really nuanced way.”

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Pictured: This summer, Adam will once again flex his scholarly muscles to create “weird, queer extravaganzas”.

This summer, Adam will once again flex his scholarly muscles to create “weird, queer extravaganzas” such as ‘The 13th Fish’, an al fresco performance commissioned by Jersey Arts Centre which recently hosted a sell-out run of Adam’s latest show ‘Bathtime for Britain’. “There are whispers it might be coming back,” he teases.

The hour of “theatrical ritual, magic and song”- originally scheduled for next week but delayed until September - will take place at the Faldouet Dolmen, a place which Adam says always had the “most magical atmosphere” and take the audience on a “fun journey back through time”.

“It’s going to be this lovely, very interactive vocal piece - no sound, no lighting. It’s about recuperating a specifically Jersey kind of queerness.”

Discussing the discrepancy between the traditional image of a scholar and his flamboyant performances, Adam admits: “The silly things destabilise the doctor, and the doctor destabilises the silly things. 

“Some people react to the deep stuff and other people enjoy the feathers. I love that – making people laugh and taking people out of the world.”

 

 This article first appeared in the July edition of Connect. To read it in full, click HERE.

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