Fringe Talk Day Nine

Bobby Fischer and Humpty Dumpty Daddy - Saturday 9th September

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When Lin-Manuel Miranda first pitched Hamilton, I’m sure people were pretty confused as to how America’s founding fathers could be turned into an upbeat musical bonanza. The same thoughts rush through my mind when I hear about JAMS Productions’ ‘Match of the Century’: The Bobby Fischer Story.

I am greeted at the venue, Two Wolves Cantina in Glebe, by a man in a sharp suit. He encourages us to go to the bar, order what we please and reconvene five minutes before the show starts.

At the bottom of a few flights of stairs, we are instructed to think of a noun or verb associated with war. I quickly scrawl ‘ATTACK’ in thick sharpie on a nearby sheet of cardboard. Soon, we are all listening to a mixture of scripted and ad lib lyrics rapped over 90s gangsta beats in what is described as an interactive “hip-hop, chess-infused freestyle fight club” show.

Bobby Fischer was a US chess grandmaster, who won his world title in Soviet Russia back in the 70s. His life is reenacted tonight by a Louis Theroux lookalike, who shares Fischer’s rise and fall from fame.

Most endearing, perhaps, was the interactive nature of the show. The war words we contributed earlier were improvised into fast paced raps which had us hollering in amusement. We shared shots of vodka (water) with ‘communists’ and witnessed a live giant chess set game played between Fischer and an audience volunteer named Megan.

I am led the way to my next stop by the murals on Cleveland Street that eventually take me to Redfern’s The Giant Dwarf.

Antique chairs face a small stage with nothing but a swivel chair, a microphone and a stool with a bottle of water and a towelette on top.

Accompanying these props is JC Clapham, the performer of his one-man show, Humpty Dumpty Daddy.

A harsh spotlight hits his face and sets the mood for the intimate and exposed environment shared between the fifteen people in the room.

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Clapham summarises his life in an hour, starting with his childhood in rural Australia. He spares no details from the biscuits his Pop used to feed him to the grammatical errors on his children’s Father’s Day cards. But the axis of his life rotates around his father’s suicide when Clapham was aged sixteen, and the effect it has had on him to the present day.

Humpty Dumpty Daddy is self-reflexive, crude, honest and can perhaps be described as an autobiographical black comedy. By sharing his own predisposition for depression, he hopes that it will not only de-stigmatise mental illness, but also help him cope and soldier on. Clapham ends the show on a reflective note: “life can be shit, but there’s always sunshine at the end of the shit”.

Before walking off stage and thanking us for our time and ears, Clapham announces he is a “big hugger” and proceeds to embrace each of us, one by one.

[Up next we stencil art and teapots with Sime.]

Written by Millie Roberts