Focus On: Gillian English

It's all about belief for Gillian English as she talks about her new show You're a Good Man, Dr Pirate

feature (adelaide) | Read in About 3 minutes
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Gillian English
Photo by Dahlia Katz
Published 07 Feb 2020

For her 30th birthday, Gillian English was gifted a session with an astrologer and a prophecy was revealed: on 30th October 2016, English would meet the man she’d spend the rest of her life with – a medicine man with a bung left eye. “My best friend started referring to this mystery magic man as Dr Pirate,” says English. “For like a year and a half until he was supposed to show up, pretty much every time we got drunk, it would be like, so who is Dr Pirate going to be? How would I meet him? And how would he feel knowing that we have a name for him and had talked about him ad nauseum for years?”

In You’re a Good Man, Dr Pirate, English – an actor and comedian with an impressive seven Fringe shows under her belt – explores the notion of belief; where we put our faith and why. “I was a very religious child of my own volition – nobody made me – I decided to be really into Jesus on my own,” she laughs. “Honestly, I was a little kid living in the woods in Nova Scotia, and I was trying to make sense of the world and religion was the only thing that presented itself as an explanation to organise the chaos of life. And then I grew up and found something else.”

Belief, as English acknowledges, is complicated. “I believed [the prophecy] so hard! I wanted it! But it’s ridiculous to acknowledge you believe something like that.” So why do some beliefs hold more water than others? What is the difference between destiny and fate, and how much control do we really have? These are questions English hopes to explore in her new show.

After a run of festival success and awards for her previous two shows, one thing the prophecy didn’t foretell was that the Canadian expat would end up as the director of Fringe at the Edge of the World, an independent Fringe in suburban Hobart. "That is not something I ever tried to manifest!” she says. “But I’m incredibly happy with where I am. I can always hear my mother in my head saying everything happens for a reason, which I don’t know if I necessarily believe, but maybe I do?”

English is, at heart, a storyteller. “It’s the cornerstone of my work, that’s where I started,” she says. “I’ve never been the kind of person who sits down and writes a joke.” Ultimately, she wants to take the audience on a journey. But she is funny, and with another new show premiering at Melbourne International Comedy Festival, when asked what she’s most looking for in the stars next: “I am looking forward to stable adventure. Does that make sense?” she laughs.