Bomb Collar

Nick Delatovic is a musician, writer and producer wunderkind based in Canberra. Amongst other projects, Nick has been involved with the You Are Here festival and performed in multiple bands.

Nick wrote and performs in his upcoming one-man performance piece, Bomb Collar, which runs as part of the Melbourne Fringe Festival from 16–23 September. Bomb Collar is a post-apocalyptic themed cabaret comedy exploring the essence of the live pop gig and the relationship between audience and performer. Leading up to opening night, Nick kindly took some time out to chat with Red Magpie.

What is Bomb Collar, in your words? What can people expect from the show?
If you come to see Bomb Collar, you’re going to see the last pop singer on earth give a pep rally concert to a revolutionary army. In real terms, it’s a sci-fi black comedy cabaret show built around eight original songs.
Where did the concept behind Bomb Collar come from?

I’ve always been obsessed with sci-fi and post-apocalyptic narratives. I really like period cabaret shows, set in places like the Weimar Republic Germany, historical periods that, in their own way, had a post-apocalyptic vibe. I wanted to do something in that space but I didn’t want to write period songs, so I thought about how to do something that would work for me. I realised that I could do a period show, in a period that hadn’t happened yet.

Once I started thinking about that, I realised that if I wrote a show ninety years in the future I would have to project what folk or pop music was going to become, and that made the whole thing quite exciting.

For the character, I saw this Youtube video of Lenny Bruce on a variety show in the thirties, just a two-minute video of him doing a cabaret stand-up based around a song. Knowing what happened to Lenny Bruce later on, you’re basically watching someone having a nervous breakdown on live television while trying to give a comedic performance. That was the character I zeroed in on.

You’ve done a lot of live gigs. Do you ever get nervous?

In a way, Bomb Collar is a metaphor for what live gigs are, a negotiation between you and the audience – a rusted-on set of traditions about how the power relationship works. It only takes one person to break the contract for things to spiral off into a different direction. Bomb Collar is a way of looking at that through an invented tradition that might happen in the future.

The show is well-drilled, but coming to Melbourne Fringe, to a city where I haven’t done a heap of performing, is still nerve-racking. The next couple of days I’m going to be working hard to be in the headspace of the character, because my hunch is that is going to lead to the best result.

Let’s talk about the visual aspects of the show. It’s got quite a Mad Max feel and you also have some really cool technology incorporated into the costume, including a Raspberry Pi computer. Can you tell us a bit more about that?

Mad Max is a huge influence on me. I grew up in Broken Hill, where the original Mad Maxes were shot. The aesthetic tradition of the post-apocalyptic as presented in the films was one that I dove into whole-heartedly, particularly because the films do such a good job of incorporating music. In particular, Tina Turner in Mad Max 3 having a hit that’s actually telling the plot of the movie was a huge influence on the show.

As far as tech, I wanted it to be a really technology-now but also light and low-fi. My costume, built by Paul Heslin and Adam Thomas, is the sound and lighting rig for the show. Everything that you’ll see, hear and experience in the show is on the costume and it’s all based around this computer, the Raspberry Pi, that’s a little bit bigger than my fist. Having something simple that is portable has been really, really useful, even though there has been the odd confused conversation at customs in various countries.

You’ve performed the show in Canberra, but also in New Zealand and in an old puppet theatre in Manila. What’s been the reception been like?

When I performed in Manila, there was not a huge language barrier, but maybe a slight cultural barrier. That being said, the general reference points of science fiction are extremely well-travelled. Things like the post-apocalyptic loner character and that kind of science fiction Western milieu – and also the idea of huge, dramatic pop songs – are quite universal. So even if not every nuance of the show got across to the Pinoy crowd, I was really gratified with how much had travelled. I think that really says something about the dominance of popular culture and, specifically, post-apocalyptic sci-fi. I don’t think I’d really wrapped my head around that until I took the show to South-East Asia and Eastern Europe.

That said, the great thing about the way the show’s designed is, every one of these other countries I went to, I was performing it in dank, tucked-away or odd spaces. The parlour room at Arts House, being a compact space, is going to be in the same pocket of providing an aggressively confronting and intimate show.

Where are you taking the show next?

I definitely want to do another season in Canberra, just by popular demand. I think Melbourne Fringe will be, in a way, a good place to peak it as a super-visible, conventionally-staged theatre show in a ‘theatre-ish’ venue. After Melbourne Fringe, I’m going to aggressively hunt out some very odd spaces. I want to see what the oddest spaces I can do the show in are.

When I originally pitched the development version to Crack Theatre Festival in 2014, I said that it was the perfect show to stage on a supermarket back dock, because it’s completely portable and requires no onsite power and lighting. I’d also love to do it in some natural spaces, maybe in a cave system. I think Melbourne Fringe will be a great place for me to refine the dramatic presentation of it and the performance of it to a point where I can be really confident to take it even further out into the world.

Bomb Collar plays as part of the Melbourne Fringe Festival in the Parlour Room, Fringe Hub at Arts House from 16–23 September. You can purchase tickets here.

All images courtesy of, and copyrighted to, one of our favourite practitioners of the Dark Art of Photography – Adam Thomas.