Emma Dean: the woman behind the unicorn

 

By Claire Richardson and Kathryn Tann

 

When we met Emma Dean at the start of the month (shout-out to Greenside for a wonderful show speed-dating event) her rainbow spangled garments and vivacious enthusiasm for music made her shine. We sent some reviewers, they gave five stars, and so we went to see for ourselves what was on the other side of this rainbow. “It’s a show for anyone who’s ever been heartbroken”, Emma tells people when she hands out flyers. It contains everything from beautiful ballads, to cheeky fetishes, to her anthem of the summer – “I’m a f*cking unicorn.”

m205x285_ffffff“Sometimes, when you’re in your darkest moments the littlest thing can speak to you.” Emma found her mantra in a simple blog post, and it has become her buoyancy aid. “I’ve not found anything else quite like it.” And so Emma embraced her past pains, put a ‘magical horn on her head’, and boldly built a show around her heartbreak.

But it dawns on us that not everyone has experienced heartbreak. Emma agrees – she says she’s learnt a lot about her show through flyering – some will scoff, happily married and uninterested in such a show. But the singer goes on to make the point that even so, everyone has felt insecure, has needed a boost of self-worth, has had friendships fail. These are issues everyone faces, and with ‘Broken Romantics’, Emma hopes to give a little light. The show is metaphor which lets the audience make up their mind – you can interpret Emma’s unicorn horn as you please.

So from this mantra, how did Emma then write her songs? She says her writing process is hard to explain; ‘it just happens’. But she does talk about the ‘I Heart Songwriting Club’ back in Brisbane, which helped springboard a number of our favourite ‘Broken Romantic’ songs.

While Emma might, on stage, be a rainbow clad, horn-wearing unicorn, she sits down with us as a friendly, relatable, and even (as she admits herself) slightly shy singer-songwriter. “The Fringe has always been on the bucket list… We raised a portion and I just saved the rest. And here we are.” She tells us that back home she runs a community choir with her brother, and then recounts all sorts of amazing stories about singing at the recent Commonwealth Games, entertaining children by day, even opening big-name drag shows in New York! Having come all the way from Australia, we imagined Emma’s large suitcase might be brimming with rainbow tights and glittery makeup, but she assures us that her dazzling costumes are quite separate from her usual attire. Apart from the hair: that’s always one bright colour or another.

‘Broken Romantics: A Unicorn’s Quest for Love’ is a quintessential fringe piece – brilliant, weird, touching and hilarious, all at once. Unicorns are a familiar symbol in popular culture at the present; emblazoned across t-shirts and decorating stationary. And here are a lot of shows about heartbreak at the Fringe, and most of them manifested in sarcastic stand up. Emma escapes gimmicky unicorns and bitter comedy, and instead creates this glittering, musical masterpiece that we think everyone, not just the heartbroken, should see.

 

You can catch ‘Broken Romantics: A Unicorn’s Quest for Love’ at Greenside @ Infirmary St until the 25th August (7.35pm).