f references to obscure (to us) US tabloid
5 has made few concessions to make up for the
Edinburgh 01128 August. where she will be ‘Giving Till lt l lurts‘. the title ofthe new show. and a different animal altogether from last year‘s ‘Without You I‘m Nothing‘ (which could be doing the rounds very soon in its film version).
‘This is a more sophisticated. more involved show. more reflective of where I‘m at at this particular time. as a performer.‘ she drawls. skipping breakfast in her Paris hotel room prior to her British tour. It‘s not quite clear whetherthe slightly . self—important tone is ironic or not. Best assume it is. 'lt‘s a kind of hommage to all the great singers. the great performers. you know like Judy Garland. Liza Minnelli. the sort of people who give and give and give and when there‘s nothing left they just give more.‘
Oh yes. we know them. they‘re all American aren‘t they? There‘s something about showbiz Stateside that attracts the self-destructive and embarrassing pursuit of mass adulation. This is the area Bernhard identifies. loves. attacks. and ultimately i celebrates in her shows. ‘That i self-destructiveness does seem to be more of
an American trait than a European one.‘ she says. ‘That‘s partly to do with the nature of the American audiences. and the fact that the demand of the show business world reaches its height in America. And that‘s a strong part ofthe show. I always think ofmy work as being a little peep at Americana. evoking images and notions of America today.‘
The danger is that all the iii-jokes. the
celebs. the sheer tacky Yankness of the show will leave British audiences cold. Bernhard ;
Atlantic divide. and doesn‘t really believe any are necessary. ‘I did the show in London a couple of months ago and surprisingly enough they got more of the subtleties than a 3 lot of American audiences.‘ she says. ‘I do
‘What ensures that her shows never actually teeter overthe precipice into schmaltz is the sex.’
some stuff I pick up on when I‘m here. but no. the show is pure American sleaze. that‘s what the people want.‘
It‘s done by way of monologues. skits and classic songs. some of which are even sung sweet and straight. always with affection. ‘Singers have a big part to play.‘ she says. ‘I‘m really an amalgam ofpeople. but comedy perse was never my big inﬂuence. never as much as theatre or music.‘ And above all. the public Bernhard should not be confused with the real person. ‘Essentially this is a performance. I might do other shows that are solely improvised. but this is definitely tightly scripted. I think any
performer has a heightened sense of
f themself. You can‘t just go out there and be
completely yourself. certainly not for the
bulk of the performance. You can strip away v the layers. but I think as a performer you
owe the audience more than just being yourself.‘
We‘re straying dangerously close to showbiz sincerity territory here. another
T common target for Bernhard‘s barbed ; satires. What ensures that her shows never
actually teeter over the precipice into schmaltz is the sex. Mostly gay sex at that. Sexuality was a major theme of ‘Without
You I‘m Nothing‘ and it has a strong part to
play in the new show. ‘An extremely important part.‘ she stresses. ‘The show explores all aspects of sexuality and all the ways ofexpressing yourself. and the freedom to do it. It‘s really about sexual freedom and the way it‘s judged in our culture.‘ This presumably entails rather more than the division of the audience into ‘gay‘. ‘straight‘ or ‘bi‘. a trick she used in the
SANDRA BERNHARD FEATURE
l . . , . . l old show. This time there s real convrction.
l i l l
‘The show isn‘t a critique of sexual mores. it‘s more a critique of repression. There‘s repression in people‘s hearts and it‘ll probably always be there. What I‘m saying is simply own up to your own desires.‘
She hasn’t been slow to practice what she preaches. Bernhard is candid about her own bisexuality. in a way that makes Madonna‘s
; coy suggestiveness look rather pathetic.
5 Incidentally. she‘s also rather chuffed with
that Playboy spread. ‘It‘s really very beautiful,‘ she says. ‘and I wouldn‘t have done it if I‘d had any qualms. It‘s not like anybody held a gun at my head. I enjoyed it. It was a lot of fun and I think in keeping with my take on feminism and sexuality and self-expression.‘ Well that‘s alright then. Sandra Bernhard. She‘ll just keep giving and giving. Till it hurts.
Sandra Bernhard: Giving Till It Hurts is at Edinburgh Playhouse on Friday 28 Augus! (two shows).
Theiist 21 4 27 August 9