Wednesday, March 9, 2011


Here's a hit review of last week's show by Martin Perry at Out There.

"In the middle of a small dark theatre space, lit by a single spotlight knelt the androgynous figure of La JohnJoseph, dressed in an electric blue shellsuit, head bowed, hands clutched as if in prayer. The wall in front of him was decorated with reflective shards of mirrored paper resembling a large arched stained glass window, or perhaps the head of a huge penis or is a bishops hat? Shiny silhouettes of rats rush up towards its centre.

Over the next hour we are taken on a journey, beginning with the Pope's first visit to UK in 1982, an event that also marked the date of our Underclass Hero's birth into a life of poverty in a Liverpool housing estate. Punctuated by iconic indie torch songs the formative years of La JohnJoseph are recounted, often surprising, sometimes funny but always poignant and unshrinkingly candid.

La JohnJoseph's studied delivery of his own exacting prose transported the audience into a vivid world of childhood turmoil, multiple house moves, an unending stream of 'stepfathers', of child abuse, a wayward mother, Catholisism and uplifting adolescent sexual explorations in the most ungodly of locations.

La JohnJoseph's haunting singing voice accompanied by violin and harmonium was the perfect tool to convey the mixture of melancholy and pathos. The makeshift screens, hung either side of the stage faintly reflected scenes form Thatcher's Britain subtly adding historical context to La JohnJoseph's monologue. By his own admission part Noel Coward, part Joan Crawford, part Penny Arcade, part Quentin Crisp La JohnJoseph owns the stage and brings vivid light and shade and not a little charm to what must clearly be a painful, yet cathartic story to tell. A story which on paper could sound depressing, but the overall effect of the show created the complete opposite effect. It was both life-affirming and heart-warming and I urge anyone with an interest in contemporary queer performance to seek out the next (as yet unannounced) performance from this most talented of orators.

Underclass Hero is the third of a trilogy of monologues, and I was left wishing I'd seen the other two. I'll certainly be first in the queue as and when La JohnJoseph's next sermon is delivered.

Underclass Hero was written and preformed by La JohnJoseph and directed by Jeffery Gordon, set design was by Stevie Hanley and musical accompaniment by Jordon Hunt on the Violin and Jack Tame on the harmonium."

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