Review: Prepping for Theatre

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By Jo Withers

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From the opening scenes of Prepping for Theatre the audience could be forgiven for thinking they’d stumbled into a medical drama rather than the advertised ‘one-man cabaret show’. Dr Lane greets his audience masked-up in medical scrubs with the beat of a life support machine competing against the jovial background music. It’s the perfect sensory juxtaposition to begin Lane’s journey of self-exploration. As he explains, he is a medic and a musician, ‘I orchestrate and vaccinate’.

Dr Lane warms up his audience by belting out, There’s No Business Like Show Business. He has amazing stage presence, the calm control of a doctor matched with the endearing, effervescence of a seasoned performer. He never misses a note and employs a rich and varied vocal range.

Dr Lane starts his self-examination at the birth of the modern musical. He gives us a brief and energetic rundown of the history of musical theatre from the early 1900s to the present. His powerful operatic voice is astounding as he performs classics such as I Got Rhythm, Ol’ Man River and Music of the Night. They are timeless ballads, performed by master soloists across the world but Lane makes each his own. His expressive tone and operatic expertise is breath-taking and heartfelt.

As our musical history tour progresses, Dr Lane’s commentary begins to take a more personal turn. As Lane performs verses from the emotionally affecting, The Heat Is On In Saigon, he begins to discuss the impact of war, the AIDS epidemic and the toxic masculinity of an era where being gay was seen as deplorable and diseased.

The audience witnesses an uncomfortable shift as the capable and powerful performer intersperses his own childhood history with a complex rendition of Sit Down, You’re Rockin’ The Boat. This segment is a creative masterstroke as Lane cleverly matches his childhood narrative, a school life of self-hatred, bullying and shame with the repeated chorus, “Sit down, you’re rockinthe boat”. It is a clear and harrowing representation of a young Dr Lane, compelled to hide his sexuality and love of musical performance; to withdraw and redefine himself for fear of ‘Rockin’ The Boat.’

From this point onwards, the musical score fades into the background as mental health discussion occupies centre stage. Dr Lane lays bare his young adult life, his torment at being unable to identify as gay, his fragile mental state as he turned to alcohol and religion, hoping to drink and pray his sexuality away.

In confronting scenes, Lane wishes he could go back to comfort his fifteen-year-old self, to reassure him that he is more than enough and urge him to unburden himself because through talking we find relief and hope.

Lane leaves us with a song and a powerful message – open up, discuss your deepest fears, destigmatise mental health. He pairs his words with the soulful ballad, ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’ – a fitting and poignant finale.

 

Five Stars – Beautifully produced and exquisitely executed, Dr Lane delivers a powerful and thought-provoking one-man musical which should be right at the top of your Fringe list.

 

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