I'm a writer with a love of young adult novels, musical theatre and vegetarian food.
Local songwriter Josh Belperio turns anger into activist art
Overall rating: ★★★★ Date attended: 11/02/2020
Content warning: frequent coarse language and sexual references, references to suicide, religious trauma and homophobia.
Note: this space is not wheelchair accessible.
In Josh Belperio's blurb for Right Here, Right Now he writes 'come gather round Josh's keyboard for something new and raw and unpolished and unapologetic' and this is what he delivered on opening night. We are in an intimate venue with a no-stage-stage lighted by home lamps and twinkle lights. Belperio welcomes us in with a grin while playing his keyboard. He stops playing and sits on a stool close to us and asks an audience member about their unique shirt. Belperio does not have a commanding presence that could be intimidating and uncomfortable in a small setting, instead, his calm and inviting energy puts us at ease. We feel his excitement for the worldwide premiere of his new show.
His short opening monologue is a conversation with us. He wants us to know why this show isn't as originally advertised; he couldn't make a fool of himself after Australia's summer of devastation. He leads us into his song that received a lot of online attention: 'Homo Vs ScoMo'. The song is a satire number commenting on the Religious Discrimination Bill and Scott Morrison's Hawaii vacation at the start of the bushfire emergency. Following this song, Belperio presents 'Scotty, Take the Wheel' from the viewpoint of a religious Liberal voter who puts their faith in our current government. Belperio wrote the song that day so his gaze is largely on his screen, but he still manages to lead us in a song like Pentecostal worship. He takes some clever jabs at arrogant conviction and throughout the show, he criticises conservative and radical Christianity. He makes a strong connection between conservative politics and conservative religion, but it would also be relevant to address the apolitical – those not interested or involved in politics – because they have been the surprise group in recent protests to realise their inaction has enabled government inaction.
The show's satire switches to camp with a musical number about gay conversion therapy. It is a fun, comical song perfect for the stage but not ideal for a one-person political cabaret without its context and merited production. However, it does convey well his dialogue about gay culture's attraction to the performing arts based on his personal experiences. He is so open and honest with the audience there is the desire to talk back (and some do). He moves on to a song in response to the book 'The Velvet Rage: Overcoming the Pain of Growing Up Gay in a Straight Man's' by Alan Downs. The emotional song reminds us that while social acceptance is generally considered to be received by (mostly white) gay cisgender men, shame is still highly prevalent in the community and overall LGBTQIA people disproportionally experience poorer mental health to their heterosexual counterparts. Belperio's few blips undercut the sorrowful moment of the piece but his performance poem that follows, dedicated to Wilson Gavin, is a powerful, emotional performance.
The show's final and titular song lifts the audience to sing and encourages a call to action. Belperio effortlessly blends topics of climate emergency, religious discrimination, government inaction, LGBTQIA rights and experiences and more, much like the injustices of our world intersect. His talent shines through his songwriting and emotional connection to the audience but there are consistent minor hiccups in his musical performance. Belperio's storytelling is fragmented and dynamic which at times feels loose and unplanned beyond intended, but there is also something inherently queer about a form that subverts the established narrative tradition. Expect to leave with political curiosity and a desire to make change.
Right Here, Right Now will be performing at Holden Street Theatre until March 1 (excluding Sunday and Monday), as part of Adelaide Fringe. Book your tix here.