Festivals, Reviews, Stage

Jack Gow: Just A Small Town Boy Review (Melbourne Fringe)

Jack Gow is, as he avows, both anxious and a tad vain. He worrries. A lot.

Should he announce himself? What will the welcome/intro be like? Should he mention all those reviews? Will enough people turn up? And so on…

He’s not, he explains, normal, at least not in the context of a NSW country town, as a male youth in a rough n tumble town, brimful of toxic masculinity. Consequently it is all a bit of a mess, not helped at all by his tendency to kick some hilarious own goals.

That in a nutshell encompasses tonight’s show. Gow is engaging and enlightening, entertaining and self deprecating. This is a young gay man’s introspection and he takes care to not simply paint himself as a victim. He tells us how he contributed to his own situation, and at times seems to have capriciously asked for opprobrium (surely he could not have been so naïve as to not get it? Oh yes, maybe he was at times, but at other he seems very arch and knowing in the retelling, even as a 12-year-old).

He also does not spare himself from confessing to real sins of denial and disdain, which must have hurt others around him at that time. It is a valuable part of a show that works hard to unpick the intricacies of a tough upbringing with some level of objectivity and perspective.

The show is funny and frightening. It’s a pointed reminder that what we might think of as the bad old days are only just around the corner, and still very much in play across whole swathes of the country

The show is funny and frightening. It’s a pointed reminder that what we might think of as the bad old days are only just around the corner, and still very much in play across whole swathes of the country; that we cannot take modern, urban attitudes to gender/sex/minorities as read, as if we need any more reminding with the current political landscape. The difference I guess is that Gow brings it back to the personal and away from the rhetorical.

In a sort of Hannah Gadsby way (and that by no means is to suggest that it is some sort of copy cat – it’s just that a reflective show combining not fitting in, differing sexuality, humour and introspection in one big monologue is inevitably going to have similarities), Gow manages to both keep us laughing, then cut it swiftly to poignancy and empathy.

He finishes the show on a delightfully silly note, riffing on a theme he has spoken of through the show, something he saw on TV in those formative years that held and powered his imagination. It is a good place to stop and leaves us walking away refreshed rather than burdened, by his unburdening.

I liked Just a Small Town Boy, from its whimsy to its seriousness, its immersion into country NSW fifteen years ago to it sense of outrage today, its knowing self-referencing to its shock at lost innocence. See it in its last few days.

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