Eddie Perfect: how I eat

Eddie Perfect

Eddie Perfect

The composer-performer on a lifelong love affair with musical theatre and what feeds him creatively.

How do you feel about cooking?
I love to cook. If I've got friends coming over I like nothing better than to head to Melbourne's Queen Victoria Market on a Saturday morning to buy mussels. They're cheap, tasty and there's no way of eating them without making a mess.

Can you follow a recipe?
I prefer to get the gist and then improvise. For me, cooking is a lot like playing music - I like to be in the moment.

What kind of an eater are you?
I don't cook any land animals, and I limit myself to oceanic creatures that cling to rocks or are sustainably sourced. When I cook a whole fish, we hope that it had a fairly full and interesting life before reaching our plates - but of course let's not fool ourselves into thinking it made some kind of personal sacrifice in order to feed us. We killed it, and we ate it. And we eat all of it.

Where did you grow up?
I grew up in Cheltenham and Mentone, in Melbourne's south-east. I remember when focaccia became big in the '90s. It was a wonderful time, not least of all because no one could pronounce it.

When was your first overseas trip?
It was India, and I went there alone at the age of 25. That's pretty late, as far as travelling goes. I remember eating a vegetarian thali in Mumbai and getting tips on eating with my fingers.

What's the strangest thing you've ever eaten?
I ate half a pig's head with Benjamin Law for an interview a few years back. That was a mistake.

How did you fall in love with musical theatre?
My father recorded Sondheim's Sweeney Todd (starring Angela Lansbury and George Hearn) on cassette, and we listened to it thousands of times on family road trips. It had everything: murder, cannibalism, injustice, revenge, greed, nihilism and a ton of blood.

You're writing the score for a new Broadway musical version of Beetlejuice. What's your favourite scene from the film?
Beetlejuice managed to create an unending stream of iconic visual motifs while remaining almost entirely plotless. I was 11 when I first saw it, and I'd never seen anything like it. Who can forget the dinner-party scene, where all those pretentious city-types are possessed into singing Harry Belafonte?

You'll be spending some time in New York because of it. Do you like the food there?
At the moment, everything in New York comes in a bowl. If you like your food in a bowl, you're set.

Are there any food trends that make you cringe?
I love street food, so whenever I encounter very expensive versions of it in a trendy eatery I tend to run the other way.

Do you have any pre-performance rituals?
It's not unusual to grab some cheap and cheerful Chinese between sound-check and a gig. It's great to get in and out without breaking the bank or freaking the stage manager out by being late.

What inspired your latest musical comedy, Vivid White?
My wife and I were interested in a house that our very good friends were also interested in. We hadn't considered what bidding against them would mean for our friendship. It's also secretly about my relationship with satire. It's a bruising and infuriating art form - one that asks an audience to see the worst of themselves, and pay for the privilege.

What makes for the best musical theatre?
The notion of "best" can mean anything from creatively satisfying, to commercially successful, to most performed - and often those ideas are incompatible. I think the best productions push the form forward, journeying into the ears, imaginations and iPhones of an audience outside of the traditional musical-theatregoer.

You're writing songs for the Broadway d├ębut of King Kong, too. Do you have a favourite line?
An irrefutable fact of writing for theatre is that any piece of writing an author falls in love with is generally set for the chopping block in the not-too-distant future. Ask me again once we've opened.

You wrote an entire play about food, The Beast. How did that go down?
The scene people responded to most strongly was about lettuce.

What was on the table at the Perfect family Christmas last year?
We kill one turkey every year - our nod to our English roots - but I also love to visit the market to buy seafood. I never buy squid, octopus or cuttlefish, though. Cephalopods are going to evolve and conquer the planet, so I don't want to anger our future overlords.

Does any particular food make you break out in song?
I listen to music when I cook, so absolutely anything.

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