Most performers want nothing but adulation, but if there’s a few “boos” at Alan Cumming's latest show he won't mind.

“I'm very upfront about what I think about things,” he says, and anyone familiar with his work can attest to this. A gifted actor on stage and screen, he's moved towards more personal material in recent years, adding to his repertoire with an autobiography and most recently his second cabaret show, Sings Sappy Songs, which he’s bringing to Australia next month. It's a personal show about Cumming’s life as a Scottish man living in the USA in a same-sex marriage.

“I talk about Trump and I get booed sometimes because everybody comes to my shows, not just Trump haters. And I think that's good because I want to engage with people who voted for him as well, I don't want to just preach to the choir.”

Cumming still enjoys shocking his audiences, and this show gives him the opportunity to do that on nightly basis. He describes his political stance as “aggressive without being exclusive,” though he finds recent political trends “very worrying. It's so dictatorial, having this big baby leading the country whose emotions get so tied up into policy. He's just a six-year-old and it's a terrifying time for anyone who is a voice against him ... We're looking at very dark times.”

For Cumming the solution is simple: education. It's why he's done so much work as an activist, both for the LGBTIQ community and against circumcision (which formed part of his show Alan Cumming: Uncut).

It's easy to forget while listing his many talents – actor, producer, director, author, singer – that he's damn funny as well, and a natural raconteur. Both elements are present in his current show, which allows him to focus on his own story rather than bringing someone else's to life.

“I thought, if I'm going to do another show like this, I want to really take it up a notch and sing emotional songs and be very vulnerable and intense and pathetic and just do it. The best kinds of performance are the ones where you are completely connected with the performer and you feel that they are showing what's inside of them and so that's what I'm trying to do.”

Linking the stories of his sometimes tumultuous life are a range of songs from the after-parties he would throw each night during the Broadway revival of Cabaret several years ago. Cumming says there are some unlikely choices, describing them as “songs that you don't think you're ever going to like ... you end up playing them again and again and you wonder why, then you realise they've got something more to say.”

Performed with a backing band led by Lance Horne (who performed at last year's Adelaide Cabaret Festival), it's a highly structured show, though there is space for “a little chat about what's happening in my day or what's going on in the world”.

Lately that's included reading a letter to Donald Trump in the style of Robert Burns, Scotland's national poet, but it changes from performance to performance. For Cumming, it's this injection of himself into the role that makes Sings Sappy Songs so rewarding.

“It's amazing. It's such a different kind of connection to being an actor. It's a completely different thing, and much more intense to do and much more scary to do, but you really do feel connected to the people in the room with you, which is how you want to be. It's kind of an amazing thing.”

Tour dates
Sat June 10 – Enmore Theatre, Sydney
Sun June 11 – Adelaide Festival Centre, Adelaide Cabaret Festival
Tue June 13 – Astor Theatre, Perth
Thu June 15 – Powerhouse Theatre, Queensland Cabaret Festival
Fri June 16 – Comedy Theatre, Melbourne