THEATRE REVIEW: I was a Teenage Dirty Old Man

I was expecting more from I Was A Teenage Dirty Old Man by Eric Kuhlmann. The premise of the show sounded right up my alley – psychosis, homosexuality, sex in public places, social commentary on politics and the mental health system.
THEATRE REVIEW: I was a Teenage Dirty Old Man
I was expecting more from 'I Was A Teenage Dirty Old Man' by Eric Kuhlmann. The premise of the show sounded right up my alley – psychosis, homosexuality, sex in public places, social commentary on politics and the mental health system. It had all the ingredients for a riveting, entertaining queer performance. Unfortunately, it fell far short of what I imagined. Eric Kuhlmann was a likable character but he succumbed to performance anxiety on the night. While I could envision the persona he wanted to create and the performance he wanted to deliver – he rarely pulled it off. He stumbled through the commentary spattered between songs about underage sex, the local council closing down beats in Adelaide, underwear being an unnecessary, irritating invention and straight and married men who frequent beats with themes such as 'Straight Men Love My Man Tits” and 'I Am Not A Paedophile But I've Slept With A Few.' All of this had the potential to produce a night of uproarious laughter but many of the lyrics were tasteless and juvenile while the performer never quite managed to inhabit the character he envisioned or deliver the songs with the passion and enthusiasm to engage the audience. It would've been a different story if he had. The material was all there and the vision was all there but he didn't pull it off. I enjoyed glimpses of the numb, deadpan character that Kuhlmann was attempting to portray but he rarely inhabited the persona enough to be convincing. Perhaps with a few less nerves and polishing the lyrics and the persona, another performance could achieve the desired outcome. In spite of this, I did enjoy the climax of the show when Kuhlmann overcame his nerves and lost himself in the performance – relaying a story of mental breakdown through jarring stage lights and music. There were some great observations about the injustice of the mental health system and its corrupt relationship with drug companies. There's also a reference to a friend who commits suicide after contending with homophobic abuse and mental illness. At this point, he captured the audience's attention, with a genuinely moving performance. Kuhlmann capped off the show with a rendition of Edith Piaf's I Have No Regrets translated to I Don't Give A Fuck for the English version. He belted out the tune with gusto and it was an uplifting way to end the show. After a short speech, he strolled off to visit a local beat (at the suggestion of an audience member) wearing a perverse disguise and a fluorescent road worker's vest, just to look the part. WHAT: I Was a Teenage Dirty Old Man – by Eric Kuhlmann (part of the 2009 Midsumma Festival) WHERE: Gasworks Arts Park

James May

Thursday 29 January, 2009

About the author

James May is a freelance writer of theatre, short fiction and journalism. He's had a number of short works produced and material published in magazines and anthologies.