Over My Dad’s Body, VAULT Festival

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by Isabel Becker

What starts off as a razzle-dazzle cabaret musical, full of mockery of his ever-so-gay charm, darling, and name-in-lights showbiz dreams, Simon David’s play soon becomes a deeply personal meditation on life, death and art, often jutting between extremes before we even know it.

The first section, in which Simon performs a glittering spectacle of camp comedy, is largely mediocre – conventional musical theatre show tunes and the like – in comparison to the piercing interrogation of the value of art that follows. But perhaps that is exactly the point. This is a play that deals in contrasts. When Simon relays the story of the disintegration and tragic passing of his father, lost to terminal cancer, embedded within a show about the performance of fabulousness, we as audience members are forced to confront his internal dialogue. Why does art matter, when death is so close?

The question is powerfully approached through a deeply personal mosaic of memories of his late father, which are woven into the action and dialogue. Video clips of Simon’s father saying phrases like “If we framed our lives differently, could we live them differently?”, begin to appear. Simon then conducts a moving conversation between his own live performance and that of his father’s in the videos we see, bringing the aesthetic questioning to the forefront of our attention.

Above all else, Simon’s bravery in staging his experience of excruciating loss must be applauded. The very genesis of the play – the importance of committing life experience to art – runs emotionally throughout the performance, a palpable dilemma surely relatable to many audience members. It leaves a strong reminder that artistic expression is integral to responding to life’s greatest challenges.

Over My Dad’s Body runs through 1 February.

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