Thinking pop culture

Thinking pop culture

The Wonderful Weirdness of ‘You’re Not Alone’

I’ve lived in the CBD long enough to be disinclined to accept the hands of strangers: such nonsense can only ever lead to a backpacker telling me about Greenpeace. My version of hell.

Nonetheless, I let the ginger-haired guy take my hand briefly: apparently he (Kim Noble) was going to personally greet everyone who entered the theatre.

I texted the friend who’d bailed as soon as I sat down: “The guy on the poster is hand-shaking every audience member. This bodes very, very poorly.” I’d only just clicked ‘send’ when an elderly woman, two seats down, leaned across my friend’s forsaken seat and asked me whether I was a singer. “You look like a concerto singer.”

And the night was only going to get weirder.

Weird mostly because You’re Not Alone is a) a one man show, b) includes audience participation and c) makes use of a smoke machine: three things that normally are guaranteed to smother my enjoyment. (I’m looking at you White Rabbit Red Rabbit. In that case, a little smoke might have helped).

And yet You’re Not Alone was wholly terrific.

I recently watched I Love Dick. Without doubt, the best television series I’ve seen. Ever. A big call, sure, but there’s no hesitation. And, while, I’ve no difficulties in chirping about its greatness, explaining precisely why I loved it like I did remains elusive. Hence why my article about it remains unfinished.

My brain making likes seeing patterns, making connections, and I often see threads in things I’ve seen consecutively. Themes of sex and sexuality, gender and art link I Love Dick and You’re Not Alone, true. But their link, mostly, is just my whole-hearted enjoyment.

Most books or television series or plays leave me wanting to tinker. I left Baby Driver for example, thinking it might almost have been passable had they cast someone - anyone - other than that fop from The Fault In Our Stars. Equally, I’m currently watching - and mostly enjoying - The Handmaid’s Tale but the degree to which I have to suspend my disbelief is becoming tiresome. (There are non-white people in positions of authority in this conservative Christian dystopia? Really?).

I Love Dick and You’re Not Alone were both perfect as is. I left both feeling a sense of satisfaction that’s both largely unfamiliar and enjoyably intriguing.

Post-play I’d send my friend a live-from-the-Uber review of all that she’d missed:

So we got a little bestiality, some heartbreak, a penis tucked under and secured with sticky tape and an existential crisis. All performed by a maudlin man who, at various junctures, fucks a loaf of bread and whacks random objects up his arse: without doubt my perfect guy. Audience participation, alas, but I dodged that bullet. Probably the best 60 minutes of theatre I’ve seen. “Experimental theatre” normally makes me want to gouge my eyes out with a spoon, but on this occasion it both suits and compliments it.

And that’s it in a nutshell. A mash-up of sex and art and yearning and anomie with a little Springsteen and Sinéad on the soundtrack.

In the space of sixty minutes it’s laugh out loud funny, and, abruptly, it’s becomes hollowed-out-belly melancholy. And then it all gets wrapped up with Chris de Burgh’s Lady In Red. Of course. Years ago, at the South Yarra train station, a man I was sleeping with was… maudlin. I have a type. Misguided in thinking I could cheer him up, I started singing “Lady in Red”. He was wearing red and the song seemed suitably stupid for that moment. And he laughed so hard he vomited. Right there on the platform. I like to think it was my breathy “cheek to cheek” that got him in the end.

If I was putting on a one-woman show, I’d be pleased if it was even a quarter as good - and a quarter as mad - as You’re Not Alone.

You’re Not Alone is showing at the Malthouse in Melbourne until August 13.

Truth be told, if I saw this before I saw the play I’d never have bought a ticket.

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