Tuesday, 8 February 2005

Little Black Bastard by Noel Tovey , Feb 8. 2005

 Little Black Bastard by Noel Tovey  
 Midsumma Festival
 Black Box, Arts Centre, Feb 8 and 9, 2005
Reviewer: Kate Herbert

It is chastening to hear a life story of an artist who has overcome terrible adversity to become a successful performer.

In his solo show, Little Black Bastard, Noel Tovey tells his gruelling and inspiring tale on a near empty stage surrounded by enormous photographic images. The photos depict Tovey and his family as well as his friends from the theatre who included Mary Hardy, Bunny Brook and John Truscott.

There is little stage action, physicalisation or characterisation but, intermittently, we hear voice overs that represent Noel as a child, his mother or characters from Tovey's life in the streets of Melbourne.

Although the show lacks dramatic structure it is the personal quality of Tovey's delivery and our awareness of the poignant truth of his telling that captivates the audience.

His tale of dragging himself up by the bootstraps began in Melbourne in the 1930s.

 He was born to a part-African Tivoli performer father and a part-Aboriginal mother. It ends just after Tovey leaves Melbourne by boat to realise his dreams of a career on the stage in London.

In between, here are audible gasps of shock and sympathy for the little boy who was born into poverty and hunger, called "little black bastard" by the kids at his Catholic school.

At four years old he was raped by his uncle, neglected then abandoned by his drunken and incompetent parents and, finally, adopted by another opportunistic sadist.

He survived a life on the streets as a rent boy - a gay prostitute - survived Pentridge and found a strange niche in the bohemian quarter of Melbourne's clubs and cafes and theatres.

His dreams lead him to train in ballet, singing and acting. He was cast in his first professional performance by sheer luck and the rest is Tovey's history.

The Fellowship that lead to the research that produced the autobiography gave birth to this show of the same name.

It is a moving tribute to a man's steadfast desire to lift himself out of the darkness in the light to achieve his dreams.

By Kate Herbert 

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