Wednesday 10 April 2024

Memoirs of a Meth Head...Chapter One review (Melbourne International Comedy Festival)

Elliot McClaren is an indigenous queer man who grew up in an abusive, criminal environment and became addicted to drugs and alcohol by the age of fourteen. It's the perfect fodder for a comedy show. Memoirs of a Meth Head...Chapter One traces McClaren's childhood and early adulthood with some wild events that he has experienced, and lived to tell the tale.

Right off the bat, McClaren tells us he is now 29 and has been sober for six months. That's a remarkable achievement for someone who has spent most of his life using drugs. He appears so calm and collected, and even though he finds the humour of what he has experienced, it sometimes feels almost inappropriate to laugh mainly because of the trauma he must have gone through.

Memoirs of a Meth Head...Chapter One 
focuses on McClaren's struggle to fit in and find his identity, when he's too white to be Maori and too dark to be white, and struggling with his sexuality in a rural town in New Zealand. He recalls his introduction to drugs like marijuana and a progression to more serious drugs, eventually cooking meth in a lab with explosive results. The most impactful story is when he tells us about a long term relationship that doesn't end well and you are left sitting there wondering how do you recover from something like that? 

The show could do with some fine tuning, particularly around what McClaren chooses to tell us and not tell us. It's quite jarring to be told he was molested in school via a throwaway line and then not return to it. Statements like this add more questions than answers, so from a performance perspective, it's probably wise to remove them completely. As the show title suggest, this is the first chapter of a longer story that McClaren wants to share, but its abrupt ending on a big cliffhanger needs to be reconsidered and finish on something a bit less dramatic. 

But Memoirs of a Meth Head...Chapter One remains a fascinating piece of stand-up with McClaren able to take his audience on such a perilous journey without overwhelming them. Hopefully we don't have to wait till next year's comedy festival to watch chapter two.

Memoirs of a Meth Head was performed at the Motley Bauhaus 26 March - 10 April.

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