Presented by Under The Microscope
Reviewed 22nd June 2017
With complimentary red surgical caps, audience members are told to find a beanbag and snuggle up under a blanket in Carclew’s Ballroom Gallery, painted in a blood-red lighting scape with the sounds of a heart monitor as house music. It was in this homely environment that audiences witnessed magic.
Last year, Josh Belperio was involved in a serious road accident on his bicycle, leaving him in hospital for a number of weeks with a ruptured spleen. Ever the performer, Belperio used this traumatic event, under the guidance of accomplished performers Michael Griffiths, Amelia Ryan and Rosanne Hoskings, to create Scarred For Life, a one-man cabaret. This was the first production from new production company Under The Microscope, founded by Belperio’s long-term partner Matthew Briggs. In this beautiful show, Belperio put his heart and soul (and abdomen!) on the line, deeming it one of the most personal and poignant shows this reviewer has seen.
After an enchanting musical acknowledgement of the creative team, barman and technicians, Belperio opens the show with ‘Underneath My Shirt is an Eight-Inch Scar’, which gave audiences a chance to acquaint with the performer. His bubbly personality was instantly likeable, and his sexual innuendo made the audience roar with laughter. In his next song, ‘I Stuffed Up’, he explains his accident-prone childhood, his charm radiating.
At the show’s climax, ‘Rushing’ has Belperio retell his road accident over a dramatic accompaniment that made your heart race, before taking us into the ‘ICU’ where his description of his first moments with his family after the accident left the audience in the palm of his hand. Whilst Belperio was in ICU, his family were given pamphlets that inspired the amusing ‘Sample Pack of Information for Families of Deceased Patients (Spare Copies!)’. Later, Josh tells of his experiences in the ward, including: his partner ‘Watching Me Pee in to a Bottle’; the undignified, backless surgical gowns; a pair of see-through underpants; and his eclectic room-mates, including one that tried to stab him with a butterknife. Belperio also describes how his accident affected him psychologically, and how his relationship flourished in ‘A Scar of Ethereal Beauty’, a beautiful melody composed to the lyrics of a poem that Briggs had written him in hospital.
One of the most beautiful songs of the show was ‘Fine’, when Belperio recognised that he would need to overcome his anxieties associated with the accident in order to move forward with his life. In an especially poignant part, he told how he refused to let terrorism, notably Melbourne’s Bourke Street Mall car attack in January, and the 2016 Orlando nightclub shooting, affect the way he lives his life. The show’s closing number, ‘Get Back On your Bike’, was a perfect mantra of resilience for not only Belperio and his bike, but for everyone.
Scarred For Life was absolutely delightful. Although on paper, uplifting isn’t a word that would spring to mind – Belperio defied all expectation. Inspiring, heartwarming and exactly what a night at the theatre should be! Keep your eyes and ears open for more from Under The Microscope.
Reviewed by Ben Francis
Rating out of 5: 5