Review by Natalie Low
The first impression of Colin Ebsworth when you walk into the Bally tent is that he’s like any other stand-up comic – Chill vibe, drinking out of 3 different cans of either Monster energy drink, Pepsi, or something or another, vaping, and making casual conversation with the audience as they enter. And he’s no doubt funny. He knows how to get the crowd excited, and throws out jokes left, right, and centre, and the audience relaxes and is having a good time. Then we all suddenly remember the title of this show, and why we’re here. Ebsworth reminds us too, as he starts the show with: “Who is here because they like cults?” A few people raise their hand, and someone in the front enthusiastically shout out their intrigue with cults.
The whole show is recounting of Ebsworth’s true story, assisted with a powerpoint presentation. He talks about how his parents were matched and married under the The Family Federation for World Peace and Unification otherwise known as the Moonies – a large community group who looked up to Sun Myung Moon and his wife Hak Ja Han, who claimed himself to be the second coming of Christ, and them as the community’s ‘true parents’. The group is still very active, and has approximately 3 million members.
Admittedly, this reviewer came to the show really excited to learn more about this cult, and the practices within the group that encouraged their members to do weird things. And this reviewer was not disappointed. Ebsworth knows that’s a selling point of the show, and he plays it to his advantage with random bursts of “weird sex stuff” that members of this cult (which may or may not include his parents) partook in. What this reviewer did not really expect was how much more personal Ebsworth made the show.
The first half of the show is much lighter in tone, and despite telling us some strange things that went down in the cult, Ebsworth would also bring up the fact that despite some stuff his parents would be facing, he didn’t have an entirely abnormal childhood. He presents us with photos of him and his family, all smiling, and he lovingly talks about his relationship with his siblings. You can hear in his voice how much he treasures them, and how tightknit they are – bonded by strange circumstance. The second half of the show does get a lot more personal, and Ebsworth brings us on an emotional rollercoaster as he narrows into the effects of being in this cult meant for his family. He reveals the darker side of what it meant to be involved in such a group, and the toll it took in particularly for his mother. The shift tone in this show felt necessary, and made it feel more than just a stand-up guy making fun of his childhood. Ebsworth’s emotional honesty and vulnerability was the turning point and you could feel the whole room not just sympathise with him, but also grieve with him. Through it all, you could still the love resonate within him, and this piece just shows that despite it all, there is real strength in supporting the ones you love.