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Review: The Tumour Show at the Chandelier Room, Freemason’s Hall - ADL Fringe

Review by Lisa Lanzi

One man, a guitar, a self-operated sound and visuals set-up… and lists!  For Fringe 2024, Peter Beaglehole reveals much under a few shabby chandeliers about ‘the joy of the horror of being'.  Simply beautiful writing: enlightening, warm, honest, unadorned, and certainly connecting with the audience.

Awarded the 2022 Jill Blewett Playwright's Award for his performance text Calendar Days, Beaglehole has had his writing featured and performed in South Australia and NSW.  At the start, there is a confession that he is ‘not a performer’ plus lives with a diagnosed anxiety disorder.  Once might suggest that possessed of such a back story, to perform a solo show in the largest Festival in the Southern Hemisphere is slightly mad.  It isn’t.  And Beaglehole, even on preview night, is an engaging storyteller who gently leads the audience into his experiences of dire diagnoses, navigating the morass of the medical system, treatment, recovery, discovery, and some thoughtful reflections on existential questions many ponder, or indeed may face in future.

You might think a performance inspired by and featuring the still unfolding story of a spinal tumour would be bleak, or just too dark.  Well yes, there are definitely flashes of darkness and some soulful, contemplative moments but with wit and compassion, this artist inspires us to think a little differently.  There are many sections too that make us chortle at the comic testimonies, or else, in recognition of situational similarities in our own lives.

Seated at the very front and side of a small stage for the entire performance with guitar at hand and an array of switches by his feet, Beaglehole converses with us in a natural, warm fashion, inviting us into his complex thought processes and offering some insights on living with illness, or on being a friend to someone critically ill.  A number of original, almost stream-of-consciousness songs/sprechgesang also pepper the narrative touching on absurd situations, the climate disaster, and growing up in the 2000s - with some illustrative slides on the rear screen.

As I zoomed out of the venue to get to my next engagement, I was left with a strong impression of a fine, empathic human, a deep thinker and, without doubt, a writer to watch; I would hope too that Beaglehole might consider more performance opportunities where his words and truths can shine through his own voice and personality.  The thoughts and revelations shared in The Tumour Show resonated strongly and will play on my mind for some time.

While writing this, it occurred to me that Beaglehole’s first thought re the title of this show (which didn’t ‘fit on the poster’) reminded me of another quote.  After some messing about on the ‘interwebs’ I recalled Simone de Beauvoir said:  “Today I believe that, under the specially privileged conditions in which I exist, life contains two main truths which we must face simultaneously, and between which there is no choice – the joy of being, the horror of being no more.”  Go see this show.  It’s important, meaningful, and a small independent gem in the midst of an increasingly ‘non-fringe’ Fringe.

Image Supplied


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