The Mockingbird | Twisted MelonIt takes a certain amount of guts (and ego) to do a solo show that relies almost entirely on one’s storytelling abilities. Even more so when the tale is purportedly autobiographical, because people’s responses to the performance are going to be fairly inescapably a judgment on the artist personally, on one level or another. Thus, I commend Peter Lead on his gumption to put himself on the line and take a “love me or leave me” crack at it.

Unfortunately though, I fell into the “leave me” category when it came to his show. I didn’t hate it, but I can’t say I especially liked it either.

Coming from a comedy/improv background, Lead is admittedly funny, and the performance got plenty of laughs from its audience, myself included. He is quite capable of mustering the kind of attention that a one-hander requires and is, in his own way, relatively engaging. As stated, the gamble in a show of this nature is that its success depends quite largely on whether an audience likes the persona being presented and relates to the personal story being told. Indeed, how much people will enjoy this production will depend even more than for most shows of this type on the extent to which they identify with Lead and his tale of romantic misadventure.

In brief, Lead’s story begins with his experience of becoming smitten with a girl he meets in Melbourne (they are from Perth and Sydney respectively) for whom he decides to uproot his life, despite having never consummated the relationship or spent any real time together. The catch, however – and the first of several – is that only days before getting on his plane to Perth she informs him that she’s now dating someone else. Something of a signpost of things to come, Lead goes anyway. Not because he’s a hopeless romantic, just because he’s… well, a bit hopeless.

Now, amusing and sympathetic a character as he portrays himself to be, Lead runs the serious chance of losing a chunk of his audience right there and then. Not in the sense of walk-outs, but certainly in terms of one’s ability to relate to his plight. This slightly gormless persona of a “lovable loser” for the post-SNAG generation may be endearing or identifiable for some, but to others it may very well be anywhere from slightly annoying to moderately alienating.

However, the above is all very much up to one’s personal responses and may well differ considerably from patron to patron. What is more objectively problematic about the show is the rather poorly-delineated storyline and indulgent pace in the telling of it. Although naturally real life doesn’t conform to a convenient narrative structure, as a work of theatrical storytelling the show really needs to go somewhere. The plot has no strong thematic thread beyond “unlucky in love”, it leaves a couple of fairly significant elements unresolved (including the rather misleading title and avowed focal point), and has an ending that ultimately… isn’t one. Life may not have neat conclusions and a parting message, but this play is bereft of the former and rather bungles the latter with a charming (or annoying, depending on your taste) digression into a reading of a Dr. Seuss book that has notional thematic links but ultimately seem poorly-integrated and apropos of nothing in particular.

Although the humour and light style keep the show from actually becoming interminable, running at about an hour and a quarter it nevertheless drags and seems as much as half an hour longer than the material really warranted. Some may find this play more meaningful or amusing, but I’d be very much surprised if anyone found it more than moderately interesting.

The Mockingbird
Peter Lead

Venue: The Old Fitzroy Theatre, Cnr Cathedral and Dowling Streets Woolloomooloo
Dates/Times: Thursdays 9:30pm & Sundays 8pm
Contact: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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