We’re Gonna Die

We’re Gonna Die
Written and performed by Young Jean Lee, Original Music by Young Jean Lee, Tim Simmonds, Mike Hanf, Nick Jenkins, and Ben Kupstas. Choreography by Faye Driscoll. Directed by Paul Lazar. Jean Lee’s Theatre Company/ Melbourne Festival. Arts Centre Melbourne. 24 – 27 October, 2012

Young Jean Lee is certainly a courageous, sharp and perceptive theatre maker; she knows how to get to the bare bones of universal experience that can be satisfyingly shared with an audience. Her approach to creating work by specifically propelling herself out of her comfort zone is inspiring.

We’re Gonna Die is a series of true-life anecdotes, around the subject of death, told quite entrancingly with an almost monotonously dry, controlled, delivery with a naïve youthful edge. Lee’s material comes from her own life experience and the resulting retelling is disarming in its sincerity.  She is at home with her audience as are her supporting band of musicians Future Wife.  Songs and music that are completely intrinsic to the whole are reminiscent of the songs of the band Rilo Kiley.

Under the matter-of-fact delivery, which brings Seinfield to mind, one sometimes glimpses Lee’s expressive strengths as a performer.  She is particularly animated when she sings a song as her mother giving rather chillingly pessimistic advice.  Lee introduces this item, a little confusingly, as one character portraying another character.

This production is closer to stand up cabaret than theatre actually, but is well housed in the intimate Fairfax Studio.  The simple staging, and charming neutrality of the delivery of this work, belies the number of creative individuals engaged to achieve a perfectly paced effective result.

It is a novel, communal experience singing ‘we’re gonna die’, in celebration of our mortality as an audience at the end of Young Jean Lee’s sensitive and moving show.

Engaging with this work got me thinking that perhaps there is a place in this festival for the more full engagement of a younger demographic in the Melbourne Festival.  It is the third one-hander that I have seen this Festival!

Suzanne Sandow

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