As a native and former resident of Adelaide, I’ve always had a fondness for Barry Morgan’s backstory as the travelling organ salesman from Sunnyside Mall. There’s something about the charming, kitschy, tongue in cheek use of Adelaide’s ‘stuck in the past’ reputation that feels… well… genuine, to be honest.
Speaking to Stephen Teakle, the man behind the smile and hair of Barry Morgan, about his recent string of shows at the Adelaide Fringe, it seems other Adelaide natives share my fondness for Barry. “Barry’s received surprisingly well in Adelaide,” Teakle tells me. “He was invited to be ambassador of the Fringe Festival. Not officially, of course.”
Of course, the success of Barry Morgan can’t be chalked up entirely to the fondness of his faux-hometown, with Teakle taking Morgan and his organs all over the country and even internationally, with a string of shows at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in 2012. Thankfully, if anything, the international crowds are more receptive to the smooth retro sounds of Barry Morgan. “Organs were massive in Europe,” Teakle points out. “They were all over the UK, in like the plague, then the organ craze was over.”
The success of other kitschy, but charming, Australians in the UK and Europe is encouraging to Teakle, who points to performers such as Dame Edna, Norman Gunston, Bob Downe and Adam Hills as inspirations for Barry’s evolving style. “I’m ready to take Barry back to Europe,” Teakle says. “Barry’s ready to make fun of them with endearing cheek.”
Perhaps best known for his skill with the organ, Barry Morgan’s shows have begun to incorporate more vocal work as Teakle is working to find Barry’s voice. “It’s more of a Hip Hop, spoken word, kind of thing,” he says. “William Shatner is definitely an inspiration, helping Barry to be more hip and reach out to the younger demographics. They seem to find Barry cool, despite of how uncool he is.” Teakle’s experiments with developing Barry’s voice are also leading down some interesting technological roads, particularly with the use of vocoders. “We’re looking to make it sound like the voice is coming through the organ,” Teakle says. “Somewhere between William Shatner and Daft Punk, really.”
This year, Barry Morgan is bringing his new show Barry Morgan is Out of This World to the Coopers Malthouse, which is exciting for Teakle. “It’s fantastic to be playing in such a premiere comedy venue, where Shakespeare and Beckett plays are performed.”
As for what to expect from this show, what else could it be but, in Teakle’s own words, “plenty of organ.” Including interesting covers of well-known space film and TV show theme tunes, in the warm and rich “Almost realistic sound” of Barry Morgan’s signature organ, which Teakle describes as like watching someone pilot a small plane. Although, as Teakle explains, some of the programming functions of the organ are more akin to a plane’s autopilot, and allow for Barry Morgan to layer sounds in the same way a DJ would with their laptop, which begs the question of a future show based around Hip Hop or electronic genres of music. It’s on the cards “for sure,” he tells me.
Barry Morgan is Out of this World is on at the Malthouse from the 11th – 23rd of April as part of the Melbourne International Comedy Festival. Tickets are available online and at the venue.