Sunday, 22 June 2014

Matthew Mitcham in Twists and Turns, June 20, 2014 ***

By Matthew Mitcham, Nigel Turner-Carroll & script by Spanky
Melbourne Cabaret Festival
Chapel off Chapel, June 20, 21 & 22, 2014 only
Reviewer: Kate Herbert
Stars: ***

Review also published in Herald Sun on line on Mon 23 June, 2014 and later in print. KH
Matthew Mitcham

Olympic gold medallist, Matthew Mitcham’s autobiographical cabaret show relies primarily on Mitcham’s celebrity and his intimate confessions, rather than on his musical ability.

Twists and Turns is a peculiar hybrid of styles and content that incorporates quirky, old-fashioned tunes with pop songs, combines ukulele with piano, and accompanies Mitcham’s personal revelations with a very weird alter ego wearing drag (cabaret icon, Spanky).

Directed by Nigel Turner-Carroll with a script by Spanky, the show is based on Mitcham’s tell-all autobiography that maps the trajectory of his diving career, his coming out as a gay athlete, and the crippling self-doubt, depression and drug abuse that plagued him.

Although, initially his performance looks awkward, Mitcham’s ebullient personality charms the audience that clearly identifies with his stories.

The structure of the show is linear and unimaginative, with dialogue that is often over-written and, particularly in the early scenes, littered with tacky, sexual innuendo and adolescent gags about toilet paper.

The big distraction in the show is the constant, unnecessary presence of the weirdly grinning Spanky playing Mitcham’s multiple companions: a childlike, invisible friend, the black dog of depression and the looming presence of drug addiction.

Jeremy Brennan’s musical direction and skilful piano playing are the most successful cabaret elements in this production and Mitcham’s singing is appealing, although not world class like his diving.

The pop tunes that Mitcham sings to echo his story include Perfect (Alanis Morissette), Shiny Disco Balls (Who Da Funk) and True Faith (New Order).

By the end, Mitcham abandons the parodic style and his stories become more serious, ending with the poignant tale of his drug rehab and the heartening news of his upcoming participation in the Commonwealth Games.

His songs become more engaging in the latter half, when he sings Little Water Song (Nick Cave) while seeming to float eerily under water, continues with Go Or Go Ahead (Rufus Wainwright), and finishes with the rousing You Get What You Give (New Radicals).

One cannot overestimate the desire of an audience to witness a car crash and see the victim emerge hale and hearty to carry on with a roaringly successful career and personal life.

Matthew Mitcham, 2008 Olympic Gold Medallist, OAM and recovering drug addict, gives an audience plenty of crashing and burning stories and leaves them cheering for him to succeed.

By Kate Herbert 

Song List
 Sympathique – Pink Martini

Has Anybody Seen My Gal? – Henderson, Lewis and Young

The Only One – PaulMac

Gymnopedie 1 & 3 – Erik Satie

Metamorphosis – Philip Glass

Perfect – Alanis Morrisette

Ride On Time – Black Box

Shiny Disco Balls – Who Da Funk

True Faith – New Order

Oh, No – Marina and The Diamonds

Too Much – Spice Girls

Blue Skies – Irving Berlin

Little Water Song – Nick Cave & Bruno Pisek

Dog – Andy Bull and Lisa Mitchell

Go or Go Ahead – Rufus Wainwright

You Get What You Give – New Radicals

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