Virtual variety in Endrey’s world

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Piano man, singer, ANU graduate and all-round talker, Chris Endrey.

THESE days, Chris Endrey is rarely called “Chris” around the arts traps in Canberra. He is simply known by his professional name, “Endrey”.

He’s the piano man, singer, ANU graduate and all-round talker famous for the “In Canberra Tonight” variety shows he co-produced over 2013-14 where he interviewed everyone from Andrew Denton to Dr Philip Nitschke and the creator of “Canbeurovision”, Chris Endrey. 

Now he hosts the virtual variety show, “The World From Here”, streaming live from the stage of the Canberra Theatre.

I caught up with Endrey as he was preparing a session themed ”Pleasure”, featuring rugby player and environmental activist David Pocock.

“I’ve embarked on an exploration of the world and ideas I think are under-presented – I hope the things I learned through my journey and the interviews and games and stories are useful for audiences,” Endrey says of his new venture, commissioned as part of “CTC@home” series running until mid-August.

Although he can’t give us a look into the future because guests are hired as the season goes along, he’s already done the Pocock interview, in which they talked about isolation and the environment.

“I’m interested in experiences that make people more than the sum of their parts. It was a pleasure to have a chance to hear David’s perspective and he was a good match for us,” he says.

So what games does he play in his show?

“Whatever happens to bring a new focus,” he says. 

“For instance, Nick Kyrgios is a huge superstar and we’ve been asking our audiences to send in funny, interesting stories of famous Canberrans they might have met at the bakery or some such.”

“Maybe we will be able to get Nick,” he says, as he’s running a poll where you can vote for a single interviewee for his program. So far, Nick Kyrgios is running number one and Patricia Piccinini, of Sky Whale fame, is number two.

“The World From Here” is a learning curve for him as it proceeds without his favourite people – audiences. 

“Canberra Theatre tried to get me to do a virtual Canberra ‘Eurovision’ but my own view was that to take such a precious live event and transition it to online would be counter-productive.”

Chris Endrey.

What he’s come up with more resembles “In Canberra Tonight”, a live nightly show with a band that he and co-producer Meg O’Connell wound up six years ago at Old Parliament House.

“Although we had great crowds and great guests, it just wasn’t sustainable as there are so many indie artists practising here,” he says. 

That turns out to be an advantage during the COVID-19 crisis as those artists are ready and raring to go. 

“It’s been really easy to find incredible talent, there are so few chances for people to appear in public with limited broadcast space… it is so nice to take some of these people and create a new space,” he says.

Besides, his aim of “finding something so completely about the big gap between how things are and how they could be” provided him with “a deep playground”.

He first came from Melbourne to Canberra to do a bachelor of international relations at the ANU, then returned to do his masters in museum curatorship, music composition and physics (2009-2012), gradually building a music career as a solo artist, band member and stand-up comedian, which he says oddly gave him the opportunity to focus more on content than production. 

These days he’s one of the country’s most in-demand performers, playing in sex-pop band “Fun Machine”, occasionally appearing nude, once hosting a Sydney Writers Festival session by day and a rap concert by night. 

“As an entertainer I don’t think I’ve been in the one place for 12 months for years,” he says. “My partner moved to Melbourne in 2019, so I moved down there to be with her this year and spent lockdown in Brunswick.”

Not any more, thanks to the Canberra Theatre.

“I’ve managed to escape,” he says. “I’m always happy to have more time in Canberra and I’m here now because each weekly episode is shot in real-time.”

Endrey says he has talked to British writer Robert Wringham, author of “Escape Everything”, about the traps in contemporary work for a session called “Eliteness”.

Other themes are “Abundance”, “Transcendence”, “Conflict and Violence” and “Loneliness”. 

“I like to cover the sort of things Canberrans would be interested in, albeit from my own perspective, I provide a window on our own society for contested, unconsidered ideas,” he says.

“Beyond that, I’m just the content monkey.”

“The World From Here”, Fridays until August 15, accessible at facebook.com/canberratheatrecentre 

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