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Shane Warne – the Musical

Shane Warne – the Musical

by Binoy Kampmark

He threw spinning grenades on the cricket pitch, watching them spit at opponents off a good length. He was also the terror of the ladies, ever eager to shoot off that lewd text message with fidgety enthusiasm. Then there was disgrace: pitch reports for money and weight-controlling diuretics. His perennially wounded wife, Simone, found it too much in the end, but she, for a time, remained his support.

But did it have to come to this? Of all things, a musical? Many would say yes. Few other characters in the cricket world could provide the material that give us Shane Warne: the Musical. Warne, arguably the greatest slow bowler in history, now has this honour (Warne didn’t initially think so), even if other cricketers might wonder.

Warne’s behaviour through his cricketing life was that of the celebrity infant, incapable of coping with things off the field. On it, a boundless genius manifested; off it, maturity deserted him. That is the vice of growing up before the camera.

Eddie Perfect is taking up the challenge in Melbourne, though he is not necessarily always convincing. The same crew which were responsible for Keating: The Musical, are behind this production.

The musical format enables all sorts of options. Bollywood-styled genres illumine Warne’s betting episode with that infamous bookie. Songs such as What an SMS I’m in and The Away Game don’t tell us anything new, though they hit the mark. Take the Pill leaves little to the imagination. Some of this takes place as his wife Simone faces him. Warne is deluged with text messages, and he must face that awful reality: off-field challenges are a different proposition from Sachin Tendulkar on a dry, slow-turning pitch.

‘Messy glory’ and ‘victim of the tabloids’ proclaimed the BBC announcement on this musical. His life was ‘expansive’ – and indeed, the large man was larger than life. The British are even wondering if Warne might be recalled in time for the musical to premier in London’s West End in 2009. Assuming Australia is thrashed by South Africa during its home series, of course.

The musical genre has its limits. Whatever buffoonery typified Warne’s behaviour off the pitch, his on-field antics were remarkable. These can never be replicated in a hallway or theatrical venue. No bowler had turned the ball consistently and so savagely in living memory with the wrist. And there was that destructive delivery aimed at a bemused Mike Gatting in 1993… The English bowler, ‘Fiery’ Fred Truman, put it down to Gatting’s inattentiveness – ‘He missed it, didn’t he?’, but the hagiographers were already penciling the name Warne into the cricket Pantheon.

Warne may not have been pleased at this musical – at least not initially. What celebrity, given the chance, wouldn’t want the measure of fame shaped and controlled? Thrown this googlie, Warne might even relent and chuckle. The man puts eager bums on seats, and knows it. Box office sales will be coming in – and Warne will be laughing at the end of it.


Binoy Kampmark, former Commonwealth Scholar at Selwyn College, University of Cambridge, taught history at the University of Queensland.

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