Home' LOTL : May 2004 Contents Jools and her twin sister Lynda grew up on a dairy farm
and from those humble beginnings, or because of them,
forged a reputation as two of the most loved entertainers in
New Zealand. So much so that they were recently appointed
to the 2004 New Zealand Order of Merit for their services
So what is the secret of the Topp Twin's astounding success?
"There are a lot of performers out there but there aren't a lot of
entertainers," Jools tells me between horse training sessions on
her property where she lives with her girlfriend. "When you
come to one of our shows you'll get songs, characters, lots of
visuals, yodelling and audience participation. If you don't get all
of those, you've been short changed."
The Twins are famous for their ability to involve the crowd
without intimidating or ridiculing: to "amuse not abuse". People
love it so much that the Twins have been confronted more than
once by audience members complaining that they hadn't been
picked to be part of the act. The warmth of their performances
might be attributed to family custom. "Mum and Dad always said
it was r ude to leave the record player on when people came over.
We always ended up getting out the guitar and having a sing."
I ask if the 'twin connection' has anything to do with their
performance style. "It's a big thing," Jools agrees. "We never
rehearse. We write the song and then that's it. We just go with
the flow. We're only able to do that because of the twin
connection. Lynda is the more 'out there' performer. She keeps
the momentum going and no matter what twist or turn she
takes during a show she knows I'll go with her. It's hard to
explain but we're always connected. It doesn't matter what
we're doing or where we are."
Although the Topp Twins work symbiotically, it's wonderful
to hear Jools talk with genuine admiration about her sister's
talent. Of Lynda's yodelling, Jools says that after 30 years "it still
sends a shiver up my spine." And how does a rural New Zealand
family feel about the twin's life choices? "Mum and Dad taught
IDENTICAL TWINS, LESBIANS, AND
CULTURAL ICONS IN THEIR NATIVE NEW
ZEALAND, THE TOPP TWINS HAVE
PERFORMED THEIR MIX OF MUSIC AND
CHARACTER COMEDY FOR 30 YEARS.
BY CECILIA MINOGUE.
FAR LEFT THE TOPP TWINS; LEFT PIANISSIMO
us to be ourselves no matter what. They are always there to
back us up. They are very proud." Their popularity in New
Zealand is testament not only to their talent but also to their
honest and forthright approach. They came out in 1977
when they were 19 and have been politically active
throughout their careers, at the forefront of causes they
believe in most: Maori land rights, Nuclear Free NZ and
Homosexual Law Reform. "The most political thing we
could do as gay entertainers is to get a room full of people
from all different backgrounds and have them all laughing at
the same things. The world is such a serious place it's
important to remain light hearted."
PIANISSIMO Brisbane-based vocal artist Christine Johnston is
coming to Sydney to perform Pianissimo, devised with Lisa
O'Neill. "What's it about, and why is it called Pianissimo?
Because nothing about you seems quiet," I ask. I regard a
picture from her successful show The Decent Spinster where
she stands, statuesque and imperious in a long dress, a
smooth chignon hairdo and eye makeup that will require
serious cold cream removal, looking like a character from a
camp horror flick. She laughs, deep, sweet, and golden.
I am struck by her beautiful, honey-like voice. "No. It's not
quiet. But the thing that Lisa and I share is an appreciation of
the quiet moments, the small things. I don't want to give
away too much. We started with fairy tales -- in particular
the princess and the pea. So I guess there is 'p' in the
performance." And she laughs that great laugh.
FURNISHINGS TO SUIT YOUR DÉCOR
BEST OF THE 40s, 50s, 60s, 70s
439 KING ST NEWTOWN
OPEN 7 DAYS 10AM TO 5PM
9519 6705 BRIAN 0409 916 169 FAX 9519 7537
The Topp Twins perform in Northern NSW this month. See
calendar for details or visit www.topptwins.co.nz Pianissimo plays
at The Studio SOH, May 12--22. Bookings (02) 9250 7777.
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