Kaz brings Ada back

Kaz Cooke will be at The Tap Room in Castlemaine tomorrow evening to launch her first-ever fictional memoir.

The celebrated cartoonist and writer is inviting all to enjoy an audience with the amazing Ada Delroy, a sassy showgirl and storyteller with a trunk full of stories and secrets.

Ada is the central character of Cooke's latest book, her first-ever fictional memoir that's strongly based in facts, including some particularly lively ones from the Castlemaine and wider goldfields areas.

Based on real photos, reviews, newspaper clippings and promotional postcards, Cooke has conjured up the extraordinary life story of an orphaned lass from Lancashire who became a household name in Australia more than 100 years ago - Ada Delroy, comedian, dancer, fighter.

Set against a historical backdrop of theatres - including Castlemaine's Theatre Royal - music halls and yesteryear coffee palaces, Ada is a richly imagined fictional memoir, fabulously peopled with a cast of real characters from Helena Rubenstein to Harry Houdini.

Cooke, whose own mother's family hails from the Kyneton area, says the real life Ada performed at Castlemaine to the bedazzlement of local 1870s audiences.

"Ada Delroy and her family troupe wowed Castlemaine several times during her 20-year career as a world famous dancer and comedian," the writer told the Midland Express.

"She danced her speciality Serpentine program in a costume made of 120 yards of silk, under coloured lights at the Theatre Royal, and also the Mechanics Hall.

"The whole show included banjo and bones acts, singing, a comic farce and a clairvoyant act which had the Castlemaine locals mesmerised and bamboozled.

"Castlemaine already had a thriving scene of local spiritualists holding seances and 'materialising' dead folk but Ada Delroy Company show was really both funny and fascinating," Cooke said.

"She also travelled with the magician Professor Baldwin and his wife Clara who visited Castlemaine several times from the 1870s onwards. Prof Baldwin was the man who taught Houdini the escape-from-handcuffs trick.

"On the stage of the Theatre Royal he set fire to his fingertips and 'turned water into wine'. Mrs Baldwin escaped from the stocks and gave horse-racing tips."

Cooke said she was particularly looking forward to visiting Castlemaine for tomorrow evening's 6.30pm launch of Ada.

"I'm really looking forward to visiting Castlemaine again after a few years as it has clearly become an arts hub of country Victoria."

Bookings for tomorrow evening's Books At The Brewery event can be made via the TryBooking website.