If you ask me, or value my opinion at all, I’ll tell you that live theatre is going through one of the strongest resurgences of any art form. Yes, I can hear you telling me that vinyl has been *insert adverb here* successful since the hipsters emerged from their niche coffee holes, or that hard copies of books are wanted more and more by the day (because you can’t turn the pages of a tablet), but to me, that’s not as strong a resurgence.
What makes me believe (in my fairly limited yet highly opinionated manner) that live theatre is trying its hardest to be recognised as a legitimate and plentiful art form is purely down to the fact that it’s had to shake itself up. Books keep being books, even though we have kindle. Music keeps being music whether it’s digital or on vinyl. Theatre, however, seemed like it was falling into the trap of Shakespeare revival after Shakespeare butchery after Shakespeare musical. Indie films were taking all the glory of being a bit different and pushing the boundaries, but theatre, ESPECIALLY that of more alternative production houses has taken it one step further, and made it even better (here’s looking at you La Boîte)
You might have read the last thing I posted (yeah, sorry about that. Life gets int he way of things sometimes) and wondered if there was anything else Jake Connor Moss couldn’t make gratuitously real. Well, he did it to theatre as well.
Despite the name, “Is there Pussy in Heaven” is a one-man show that talks about far more than merely sex in the clouds, well, for the most part. Following a very similar trend to much of his published works, it delves into the oft taboo areas of mental health (yes guys, it does in fact exist), drugs, abuse, suicide and sex, and doesn’t hold back. The story loosely follows a main male protagonist dealing with life. No spoilers, theres a beautiful cohesive and ultimately revealing plot to the show.
As a one man show, you’d think it would be hard to define distinct characters, have a setting, a coherent plot, however Moss is just that good that nothing seemed out of place. First an foremost, the acting chops he showed were immense. He tackled various subtle and emotional characters and came out looking like Gary Oldman in each instance. He played obscenely exaggerated caricatures and made them fit without being cliched or over the top. Having written these characters and the related script himself, you’d expect him to know what he was doing, and he didn’t disappoint. The simplicity of both the costuming and the set design worked just as well to compliment the material. A hat, a few chairs, a pair of glasses and a desk was all he needed to set a scene that (bar a few references to Brisbane locales) could be inserted into virtually any western setting. Couple that with the lighting – all impressively manually worked – to prompt a scene change or change in P.O.V so succinct even Tarantino would have been impressed with the fluidity of the acting and the script, and you have a formula for solo success.
But really, the characters, the setting, the costumes and the lights were nothing compared to the pure, unadulterated piece of realism genius that was the script. I repeat a lot of what I mentioned in his Sooky Cunts book review, that having an unapologetic and raw outlook to some usually untouchable ideas is just what we need. However the witty comedy, the make-you-cry monologues, the dirty jokes and the overarching story and plot twist were just so, so good that really, I can’t think of what more to say. The balance of comedy and drama was precise, giving you a hint of comic relief right when you needed it but not overshadowing the messages of what help really means. The anecdotes provides allow the audience to connect with a hard to grasp concept even if they can’t relate it to personal experience, and that’s something that doesn’t happen all too often. The way Moss embodies the words that he’s saying, whoever is saying them, whatever the situation, draws it back to the reality of the speech. The script has so coherently showed us that anyone can have issues. Anyone can be on the brink. Anyone can put on a mask. So don’t assume.
Yes, he’s done it again. Jake’s woo-d me with realism and freedom of expression just as I endeavour to freely express myself, no matter what. Not only that, but from both a critical and emotional opinion, works like this could very well change the dynamic and medium of modern theatre. I sincerely hope it does.
– AJ Lienert