I have only recently heard of the passing of Chris Maver, who was a well-known performance artist around West End in Brisbane through the turbulent 70s till now. Chris often teamed up with the other Chris (Anderson) making them the two Chris’s. One example of such performance was “The Wicked Wicca-Leaks of West End” in 2012 at Turnstyle, a collectively run social space in Laura Street, Highgate Hill.
Chris Maver was born and bred in working class West End in Brisbane attending a local catholic school. One of his skits was about a dreaded tap dancing and singing nun, Sister Mary. Many of us had such a nun in our lives as catholic school kids. When the coppers made threats against us we could always say: You don’t frighten me, I was taught by a nun!
Chris had such anecdotes that were included in his biographical The Girl in the Lime Green Bikini, one of which was how a friend burnt down the old school of arts building in West End because he couldn’t go to a Saturday dance. Only to be replaced by the still existing Kurilpa (Pensioners League) Hall next to the West End library. This was how the reviewer saw Chris’s cabaret:
… (an) inspired and personal history, of a man, a family, a community and a city. The experiences of single mothers, adulterous wives, religious repression, alcoholic husbands and queer communities are beautifully woven into the lively cabaret …
One day in 2013, Chris and I had a lot of fun on the bus working out a speech for the launch of his DVD “Our Arts, Our Stories”. Previously Chris got up in front of a crowd of Labour voters at the Avid Reader and predicted the savage demise of their premier and government. Sure enough Anna Bligh led her government to the most bruising defeat in Queensland history. I am not sure it all went to script, for the next time I saw Chris on the 199 bus he told me the ALP local councillor, Helen Abrahams, was aghast. With a little extra work-shopping, Chris also proclaimed the end of the Newman government in one of his acts.
I suppose Chris and others, we were a product of our times – the opposition to the Bjelke-Petersen government. Opposition took many forms. Chris was happy to send up local radicals but he once told a local activist he was a relative of the great Irish guerrilla fighter, Dan Breen, who fired the opening shots in the War of Independence in 1922. (He assassinated some policemen).
While Chris may have eschewed radical politics his abiding love was theatre and cabaret. This account promoting his work appeared in the local paper, The Westender:
Chris has worked at the Rialto Theatre, when it was a live theatre in the ‘90s with shows Little Shop of Horrors and Star Buck both independently produced.
Also in the 90s, Chris worked with Street Arts, a Community Arts Theatre based in West End and producing local productions about West End’s colourful history. He has also worked with Pride Festival at Musgrave Park and the Boundary Street Festival and most recently, its reinvention – The Block Street Party. Notably, staging Cabaret events with the West End Community Association Cabarets at Ahimsa House showcasing West End and Brisbane’s finest cabaret artist.
I was a little shocked by Chris’s passing as he always seemed so full of life, discussing politics while, at the same time, flirting with a good looking man in seat opposite on the bus. Chris did not let on that he was suffering from cancer.
It seems that the West End of the 70s and 80s has passed, the public life that it once had, has changed character. Remembering Chris helps knowing the past.
I will miss him.
A celebration of Chris’s life will be held on Monday 26th October
12pm at Centenary Memorial Gardens Sumner Park Brisbane