I know Gavin personally, and while I was familiar with some aspects of the subject matter of this piece, I was not prepared for the incredible depth of emotion he brings to his performance.
Alone on the stage with only a chair and a bag of empty pill packets for company, he is as isolated in his act of storytelling as he was in the experiences he relates. The courage in that simple fact is the steady heartbeat of this show and it becomes more and more tangible as his revelations unfold.
The show’s blurb will have you thinking that this is a uniquely queer comedy about what might happen when you have an anxiety attack in the middle of the act of fisting someone, and in a way it is.
As uncomfortably hilarious as it is to watch someone act out the delicate choreography that is inserting your hand and forearm into the bowels of another human being, there is more to it.
We all carry around anxiety and we often expend a great deal of time, money and energy, trying to disguise it in an effort to get on with life. The wonderful thing about this piece is the determined way that it dismantles that deceitful habit before our eyes.
The clothes he wears – less a costume and more his standard wardrobe; a leopard print cap and t-shirt emblazoned with an anime princess and the phrase “DOM TOP” – are a part of that external self-expression. They are labels: ‘fabulous’, ‘camp’, ‘confident’ and identifiably ‘queer’.
The unravelling of this exterior to unveil the formative experiences of his queerness, the struggles with family, mental health and alcoholism is shocking because of the universal expectation (still) that these things remain hidden.
It engenders an empathy and respect in its audience while also revealing a strength and an angry resilience that is messy and imperfect and honest
Performing autobiographical stories is challenging. I have written before in this publication about how hard it can be to dispassionately assess the work while keeping hold of the emotional truth of the story. In this Roach excels.
The reality of his own life is channelled so well, and interlaced effectively with levity and wit, that he maintains that invisible dialogue between performer and role that is so elusive in self-portrayals, while still building a rapport with the audience.
As a writer and a performer, he makes it easy to laugh at the absurd, and hard to ignore the painful.
After guiding us through a chaotic sequence of recollections and missing memories, baring his soul, drawing us in with his vulnerability, Roach ends by issuing a confronting challenge to his audience: what truths are we disguising, and could we ever show them to the world?
Your Silence Will Not Protect You
The Butterfly Club, 5 Carson Place, Melbourne
Performance: Tuesday 15 November 2022
Season continues to 19 November 2022
Information and Bookings: www.thebutterflyclub.com
Image: Gavin Roach (supplied)
Review: Daniel Townsend