Phillip Lee Curtis is a likeable 28-year-old man with a diagnosed eating disorder and unresolved sexuality issues. His answer to his personal problems is to write one-man shows about them. In Ego Jacket, he unleashes the inner extrovert for an hour, donning a succession of increasingly outlandish jackets and prowling the twenty-odd square metres of Bakehouse's black box set, performing various rock songs that made their originating rock front-men famous and interspersing his karaoke-without-the-video-cheat-sheet set with personal disclosures that sometimes extended to the toe-curling.
His jackets are displayed on a standard dressing room clothes rack near the microphone stand, centre-stage, and he even has a small onstage makeup table behind it to paint on punk-style runny eyeliner as the set approaches its most intense. Liberal use of rock soundtrack and video and imagery through the digital projector add a kind of Shakespearean sound and fury, but Curtis falls well short of Macbeth baring his soul, despite a promising opening cover of INXS's 'Need You Tonight'.
Laser lighting as a part of an effective lighting plot, well-drilled choreography and a smoke machine add light and shade. A pastiche of projected imagery complements the somewhat haphazard narrative and provides a distraction while Curtis touches up his makeup. There is a somewhat awkward video show-opener, in which an unseen interviewer deals a black-and-white pre-recorded Curtis some harsh entertainment-style interrogation, a somewhat self-conscious and laboured attempt at humour, which does little to lead us into the heart of the writer/performer's dilemma: how do I confront my demons onstage in such a way that the audience understands them and me better?
Curtis chooses an approach that doesn't shy away from harder issues and some of the show's more telling moments emerge from honest self-disclosure. But the drama lacked the hard edge that more of such disclosure might have provided and his narrative emerged in snippets only, clothed in a series of somewhat campy jackets and set to a rock soundtrack, some of which tested his median vocal range.
Ego Jacket is a brave attempt to draw attention to eating disorders, but its attempts to ameliorate the hard self-disclosure with lighter entertainment lessen its impact.
Ego Jacket plays at 9.00pm each night until Saturday March 2, at The Bakehouse Theatre in Angas Street, Adelaide.