Review by Stephanie Lee
Therapy is Expensive! (So I Wrote a Cabaret Instead) is an honest, yet often light-hearted look into the mind of its maker Charlotte Armstrong.
Starting with a musical number about the present-day chaos of her thoughts, the cabaret works backward to help us understand where Charlotte’s problems begin. Through a combination of song and storytelling, the audience is taken on a whirlwind of a ride privy to Charlotte’s self-realisations and formative past experiences.
Although facing a few tech difficulties at times, Charlotte always remained in control and charmingly laughed off mistakes.
The stories told between songs were by far the most entertaining and successful moments of the cabaret. They often moved between deeper revelations and comedic reflection rather seamlessly, which made for quite moving moments throughout the performance. One such moment was the delving into childhood bullies, including an incident where a few young boys made up a song with the lyrics ‘Charlotte is a homo’. Although told with humour, the hurtful nature of the experience was still felt by the audience, which is a testament to Charlotte’s engagingness as a storyteller.
The songs themselves were a chaotic balance of sad, hurt, angry and funny with some not quite hitting the mark as well as others. Two songs were clear standouts of the night: one including the reoccurring lyrics “go f*** yourself because I don’t want to” and the other about needing to “get something off my chest” which ended with a bottle being quite literally pulled from off Charlotte’s chest. In both songs the comedy and musical elements were blended together well, which made for many surprising and funny turns.
Despite not every song being the best choice for the moment, Therapy is Expensive! (So I Wrote a Cabaret) was very akin to a therapy session with each section pulling us deeper and deeper into Charlotte’s mind. Much like life this show has ups and downs, examining how childhood trauma might manifest itself in relationships and other stresses later in life.
I truly felt it when Charlotte lamented about her habit of being alone and as I wondered home, I stopped to think about what habits I have ingrained in myself from “bottling things up” and not dealing with issues.
This show certainly provided the audience more questions than answers, but is at least an entertaining short watch for your Midsumma viewing!