Review: That Boy Needs Therapy
By Anna Jeavons
SHARE THIS CONTENT:
Gordon Southern has a cheeky, youthful presence, and crinkles around the corners of his eyes.
“Therapy saved my life” is the line repeated throughout the show—named after certified 2000’s banger Frontier Psychiatrist. You can tell Gordon has Scottish ancestry because he’s a natural storyteller with a history of substance misuse. The audience is rooting for him from the start.
I found the routine jarring. One minute Gordon’s ragging on hipsters (isn’t complaining about man-buns very 2012?), the next he’s telling us he’s experienced voices in his head encouraging him to “drive into oncoming traffic”. Then all of a sudden we’re back to jokes about reality TV. To be fair the crowd was laughing throughout the show, if at times begrudgingly.
I don’t think Gordon would like the critique, but That Boy Needs Therapy made me a bit sad. It’s not pity—as someone managing mental illness myself, and with a British best friend who uses humour to navigate his own Lived Experience—the thought of pitying Gordon (or his therapists) because of their demons is mortifying. It’s not pity, it’s empathy. It’s solidarity. But this connection wasn’t something I was allowed to grasp or hold onto because every time Gordon started down the road of inner darkness we, the audience, were immediately emergency ejected back out into Happy-Go-Lucky-Land with a punchline; swiftly redirected by silly observational humour to keep things light-hearted.
I’m not sure what I was expecting—I was at a comedy show, wasn’t I? I suppose the marketing material made me think things might get deep, might get cathartic. There are comedians out there who can really walk that line; really explore the confronting, uncomfortable elements of life in deep and insightful ways and still keep a room laughing.
In my view, Gordon is not quite one of them. Instead of sitting and speaking vulnerably from a place of discomfort, Gordon jumps in for one second… then washes himself clean with (admittedly charming) jokes about London sewer rats scuba diving. It makes me wonder how much he has processed his own experiences; to what degree he is choosing to avoid vulnerability onstage. Perhaps our hero doesn’t want to bare his naked soul to audiences just to make a living? Perhaps, like fellow comedian Hannah Gatsby, he doesn’t want to make a mockery of his own pain?
Well Gordon, if that’s the case I salute your conviction. But just so you know, I would find your show significantly more impactful if you gave credit to your audiences and your experiences and trusted that you are clever and charismatic enough to go deeper:
What is it like to reach middle-age and still feel like a young man at heart?
How do you feel about the fact that your career has not gone the way you would have liked?
What have you learnt about yourself through therapy? How did it save your life? How could it save mine?
And maybe most importantly, what was it that found your therapist calling you back in a time of need? Is formal therapy the only way we can encourage young men to reject societal pressures and open up?
These are the human questions you posed, but never really spoke to.
I am hopeful that this show—with its affable protagonist, and classic witticisms—will develop further in time.
mindshare will be posting reviews of shows with mental health themes on our blog and social media channels throughout Adelaide Fringe. Stay tuned for more reflections from contributors living with mental health challenges and/or working in the sector.