Review: Stutterpop – Auckland Fringe

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Playwright Sam Brooks takes to the stage for the first time to deliver a monologue about life, love and a speech impediment; with lip-syncing galore.

Stutterpop felt uniquely Fringe.

An unexpected, thought provoking, personal piece, that won’t appeal to everyone.

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Sam Brooks talks about his life from realising he was gay as a teenager to his relationships with (mostly straight) boys that have inspired his work as a playwright.

Inspired by the likes of Judy Garland’s one woman shows, in between stories Sam serenades his audience with songs that are lyrically retrospective of the time in his life he was just discussing. Sam can’t sing, so like all good divas he lip-syncs and shakes his stuff to choreography.

The show is given an hour long allotment by The Basement and follows a 45 minutes script, however on the night we attend it runs 90 minutes. The reason for the run time and the show’s centre piece – Sam’s stutter.

He is just a few words into his monologue when it begins. ‘Yeah-ya-yay-yeah’ is repeated continuously as he fights to get back to his scripted lines, the stutter eventually alleviates, at some points after three seconds at others after more like 30…

30 seconds is a long time to stammer on a bare stage, under the spotlight of an intimate theatre with a near sold out audience staring at you.

This is the reason every review of this show will describe Brooks’ Stutterpop as ‘brave’. While this is an undeniable truth, it by no means paints the complete picture. Bravery is seldom clever, but Stutterpop is seriously smart.

In it’s opening minute Stutterpop hits the audience with a hard dose of reality. As good as the script writing is, some bits will be lost as sentences and stories as constantly broken up with an at times paralysing wait for Brooks’ speech impediment to subside, and when it does he may only manage two or three words (though sometimes nearly a full minute) before he is once again impaired. So the audience are taken on the same journey that Brooks himself has faced as a stutterer. In the beginning, suspecting it will get better as he warms to being on stage, the reality that it doesn’t brings overwhelming sympathy, annoyance, frustration, and at times, a yearning to read the scrip without the stutter. There are occasions you wonder if the show can and will continue. It does.

Clad in heals, black tights and a sequined black top, Brooks continues for everyone to see, already aware his stutter won’t subside, already having felt the annoyance and frustration, already having experienced the sympathy. As Brooks takes us through the ironies, fuck ups and heartbreak of his young life, his message is clear: Life is meant to be lived warts and all and is best when you accept that. A sobering statement coming from a 24 year old in an age of Photoshop and Instagram filters.

Stutterpop feels like a statement Brooks needed to make. An all singing, all dancing one man show from a non-singing, untrained dancer, who is a stranger to the spotlight. While it may lack the polished structure of his previous works, the impact that the process of creating and performing Stutterpop is likely to have on Brooks’ future output is a truly exciting prospect.

 

Article | Oliver Hall.

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