27 March 2010

Review: Memoirs of a Human Cannonball

Memoirs of a Human Cannonball
Full Tilt
25 March 2010
Blackbox, the Arts Centre

In 2006, Matt Wilson nearly lost his penis (and his life) in a circus accident.
Memoirs of a Human Cannonball is an amazing story of horror and courage and the general incredibleness of Crash Matt Wilson, but its telling gets lost in the show.

With her blonde beehive and pink polka dot frock, Peekay (wonderful Shirley Billing) welcomes the audience with popcorn, something she once sold at circuses all over the world but an accident forced her to retire to the Coburg Caravan Park. Here she meets the Singing Stuntman, who also knows circus and has a story to tell.

Peekay knows the importance of telling your story “because it might make a good story” and that it’s as “simple” as saying your name and making a story. So please Peekay and Singing Stuntman, listen to your own words and tell this amazing story with the passion, conflict, fear and gob smacking courage that created it.

Memoirs of a Human Cannonball is Wilson’s story. With its mix of fact, fiction, circus history and fun, it is not clear that it is Wilson’s story or that the bloke on the stage isn’t a fictional character. It’s easy to see it in retrospect, but – like paying punters – I came to Memoirs of a Human Cannonball with no more than the guide description and I’m only understanding how awesome it is from googling news stories.

I’m tempted to see it again, now that I know what it’s about, because at the time I was enjoying the performances, but was a bit bored and didn’t start caring until too late in the show.

At first, I thought it was a children’s show, with its catchy songs and nutty Zacchini brothers, until the discussion about unimaginable pain and how much morphine was needed (and the picture). Not that this kind of detail should necessarily be kept from a children’s show, but the shock came from the change in tone, rather than from the story being told.

Memoirs of a Human Cannonball is going to be as amazing as its story. All the elements are there. The puppet theatre backdrop design is perfect, the songs are brilliant, the characters are adorable, the cabaret concept could be no better; but until the story becomes the focus of the night (please work with a writer), too many people are going to leave wondering what they just sat through or not see this story at all.

This review appeared on AussieTheatre.com.

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