Thursday, June 02, 2016

Dear Diary by Andi Snelling, Butterfly Club 2016 Review

Dear Diary

Reviewed by Lee Bemrose

Andi Snelling's one woman show Dear Diary has been doing well at various arts festivals since Melbourne Fringe last year, and seeing her opening night performance at The Butterfly Club, it's easy to understand why. Andi is a thoroughly engaging comic actor and story-teller with quite a superb singing voice. Yes, there are songs because this is kind of like a cabaret show, where The Person On Stage tells stories, sings and dances and does whatever fun stuff takes their fancy.

In Dear Diary, the schtick is that TPOS is telling the story of the last 24 years of her life via actual diary entries. Yep, she's kept a diary since she was, I think, nine years old. The child is there, the young teen is there, the blossoming older teen and the adult, they are all there.

From the outset, as Andi emerges from her suitcase, her physical performance is striking, slightly weird and comically quite superb. The audience is hooked long before she has uttered a word.

Hearing the personal thoughts of the performer at various ages is funny in that they are the universal voices of people of those stages of growth, but in the background there are more existential things to ponder; the nature of growth and aging and the idea that were are all basically living stories, but will anyone but our own selves ever know the complete story? The suitcases within suitcases put me in mind of those Russian dolls, and how we are in a way layers of ourselves through our whole lives. There was also a nice play on the tree falling in a forest idea that raised the very relevant question of why, exactly, diarists write diaries. Who are we writing for? If no one else reads these so very private musings, do they exist? Do we exist? Did we exist?

This is all stuff that is sparked during the show, but you don't really think about until after the show, because during the show there is much too much to be enjoyed on a lighter level. The list of birthday presents the young teen has scored, the snogs the older teen has scored on her adventures overseas, first sexual encounters... all authentic and funny and, yeah, nostalgic.

As well as an accomplished actor and voice-over professional, Andi is obviously a trained dance performer. I wasn't expecting so much physicality in such a show, but her physicality is simply a delight to watch.

There's a section called Guest Diary that may or may not involve a level of audience participation. I was both cynical and disappointed by this section. Once you realise what it's all about you will probably wish, like my group did, that it had been more fully utilised. If genuine, it could have been a longer segment of the show. As it was, this section with its lengthy introduction, seemed like filler.

One opinion that my plus one, The Dreaded One, had was that the show seemed a little self-indulgent. I dunno. Isn't cabaret, by definition, self-indulgent? Certainly a diary is self indulgent, so a cabaret-type show about a diary... well der The Dread One. Certainly this has obviously crossed the mind of The Person On Stage, because she took the wind out of those sails with a pretty damned funny re-working of the Carly Simon classic You're So Vain.

The very real, adult Andi Snelling appears to have much creative success. But a few Russian doll layers back, according to her diary, there was bad personal stuff going on. She shared this with us too. I had mixed feelings here too, coming away thinking that it was all just a showcase of her talent.

Which luckily for us, she has bucketloads of.

At The Butterfly Club, Carson Place Melbourne until June 5

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