Matthew Mitcham returns to cabaret with a tightly prepared package of song, dance and reflections.
Having retired from competitive diving, Olympic gold medallist Mitcham considers life after elite sports and his deferred approach to adulthood. Since his first autobiographical cabaret performances in 2014, Mitcham has not been resting on his laurels. Training for the Rio Olympics shared time in his life with various television appearances, thoughts about the future and, relatedly, a 10 year high school reunion. And then he withdrew from the Olympics... While this is sufficient material for a pleasant production, his first show was a whirlwind tour through a packed young lifetime from childhood to mid-twenties, featuring a rollercoaster of ups and downs. The intensity and urgency of this fascinating journey has faded in this subsequent outing, as the step from adolescence to full adult responsibilities lacks the compelling qualities of the original tale.
Fans of the young athlete with the infectious smile, jaunty ways with a ukulele and supported on stage by the irrepressible Spanky (Rhys Morgan) and “Matt 2” (Matthew Ogle), will find much to enjoy. The song selection is eclectic, and well-suited to Mitcham’s voice, following his story in an engaging way. Spanky is versatile in support vocals, and brings vivacity to onstage interactions. Upright, charming and always on key, Ogle brings sprightly precision to a range of instruments to accompany proceedings. Mitcham may have been runner up on Dancing with the Stars, but his impressive moves on stage are a winner in this show.
An engaging story teller, Mitcham’s account of discovering the decisions of adult life has resonance for many listeners. His recent ventures have truly been for better and for worse, and Mitcham does not shy away from the downsides. Spanky relishes emphasising how poorly Mitcham’s televisual career has progressed, and Mitcham acknowledges his own hubris. Mitcham perched alone on the front of the stage considering his regrets and current situation feels like a moment in the pub facing a friend when all the glasses are empty and there is nothing left to hide behind – a rare intimacy in the glamorous world of showbiz. On a brighter note, he finds solace in work he is doing with athletes to transition to the workaday world, formalising his personal motto of “if you can’t be a good example, be a horrible warning”.
While Mitcham cavorts on stage with camp parodies of himself and trades banter with Spanky about gender identity and sexuality, the strengths of Under the Covers are grounded in his own hopes and fears. Jokes, music, whimsical anecdotes abound in this fast-paced, well-prepared entertainment, but Mitcham’s truthful disclosures provide further substance beyond the eyes, teeth and twinkling footwork.
Returning to Fringe World with Under the Covers, this well-paced sequel to Twists and Turns has plenty to like, for current fans and those who missed out, the first time around.
Twists and Turns Productions Pty Ltd with TheatricHals presents
Under the Covers
Directed by Nigel Turner-Carroll
Venue: Perth Town Hall | Cathedral Square, Perth WA
Dates: 13 – 19 February 2017
Part of the 2017 Perth Fringe World Festival