Left – Steven Fales. Photo Dave White. Cover – Steven Fales. Photo – Carol Rose
In this post Oprah era of the Ted Talk, I guess we’re rather used to people being anecdotal and just before signing off from his 90-minute on stage marathon, writer and performer Steven Fales offers us a little bit of humble narrative comradery. “We all have a story to tell” he says. As we leave Confessions of a Mormon Boy, it’s hard not to acknowledge that his is a particularly good one!
In town for far too short a time, this new and updated production is here as part of Melbourne’s Midsumma festival and is based on original direction by Tony Award-winner Jack Hofsiss. With Off Broadway seasons, extensive tours, multiple theatre and literary awards, Fales has been performing his autobiographical work since its Salt Lake City premier in 2001. Ever evolving, this extraordinary story has been shared the world over and now forms part one of “Mormon Boy Trilogy” running alongside a suite of additional works by Fales that undoubtedly keep him busy.
Entertaining, educating, devasting and uplifting, Confessions of A Mormon Boy is a story of extremes; an uncensored insight into a life near destroyed by personal, sexual and spiritual conflict. From wholesome Latter-Day Saint journeying through the expectations of missionary work, marriage and fatherhood to craving righteous adherence with conversion therapy and onward to excommunication, divorce, prostitution, drugs and exile. Unapologetically raw, astoundingly honest and shared unbelievably without bitterness; Fales’ story is a compelling, exciting and even arousing tale of personal triumph, introspection and forgiveness, not just of self but arguably the source of trauma itself, Mormonism.
With lightening pace, strong characterisation and abundant energy, Fales is masterful if not exhausting to watch as he strips away, literally and indeed quite shockingly, cosmetically, the benefits and pitfalls of what it is to be handsome and physically blessed traversing the hedonistic lifestyle of gay male stereotypes.
While Confessions of A Mormon Boy exposes the demons of organised religion and the constraints of its allowance for natural order, it’s also an examination of what faith gives a person, makes a person and what is potentially lost and substituted when that faith is taken from them, by choice or otherwise. Like Hannah Gadsby’s Nannette, knowing this tale is actually that of the teller makes for uncomfortable viewing at times and prompts us to wonder throughout if reliving this stuff is actually such a good idea.
Confessions of A Mormon Boy is an incredible exploration of our condition and the constant tussle we face in wanting to, being able to and allowed to identify and live as our authentic selves. I don’t believe that seeing this show should be encouraged, I think it should be compulsory.
2020 Midsumma Festival
CONFESSIONS OF A MORMON BOY
Venue: The Loft, Chapel Off Chapel, 12 Little Chapel St, Prahran
Dates: 7–9 February 2020