By AJ Lamarque
For those wanting to avoid spoilers, just know the show is worth watching. Funny, surprising and moving, it’s a must-see piece of Australian new writing. Get tickets before the season closes on 29 July!
Ok, now for my thoughts and spoilers…
To me, there felt like three main threads to the musical and each was well articulated, sung and explored before moving on to the next. And, further to the credit of Jules Orcullo’s writing, each thread coalesced beautifully at the end in a tear-inducing manner.
Thread one, the struggle of the emerging artist. After moving back home during the pandemic, Jules (played by Jules Orcullo) has spent their entire savings investing in their craft as a playwright. It’s not gone well. Her room is a mess and the set serves peak Millennial vibes: fairy lights, unwashed laundry and a barely living pot plant. Set & Costume Designer, Hailley Hunt, did a perfect job making the most out of the small space whilst not sacrificing the maximalism that really illustrates the messy, millennial artist’s life.
Starting out on stage as the audience enters, Jules states directly to the audience that the story they’re about to tell is 100% made up. It’s fiction. Still, Jules’ endearing and charismatic energy makes you completely fall back into her story of the struggling artist without second guessing. There are a couple of songs that tie into Jules’ existential anxiety around what it means to be an artist whilst having a very contemporary meta-commentary on the musical genre and arts industry itself. One specific line “Can you call yourself an emerging playwright in your thirties” felt like a personal attack against myself and, judging by the laughs, most of the audience.
The plot moves along into a second beat which poses a question about art and authenticity. Does new work have to always be based on personal narratives and facts? Or is there still space for unapologetic fiction? This is explored through an exciting opportunity Jules gets to write a brand new musical with her childhood icon and idol, Tim Minchin. As the creative developments go on, Tim gets snippets of Jules’ interactions with her First Generation, Filipino mother (played by Nova Raboy) via Zoom and becomes set that the musical should be about her migrant story. Tim (who now personifies the system) increasingly pressures Jules to write her mother’s journey for the sake of platforming authentic, multicultural Australian stories.
I’ve often felt this tension myself as a creative. There’s this conflict that I feel as a brown guy when I get opportunities in my career. Was I invited because I’m good at what I do? Or am I there because my Browness looks good optically? Or both? The same extends to getting funding/platforms to produce my own work. I know that fundamentally a play that explores my ethnic identity will have better odds of getting up than a work of identity-less fiction. And while I do want to talk about my own experiences, I also would love to know that I could be rewarded for creating great work, no matter the DEI objective it fills or not. Because ultimately, if I don’t get equal consideration for both valid works, then am I actually equal?
The conflict Jules faces is exactly that. Tell the story the system expects her to and be included. Or refute the expectation and lose her seat at the table altogether. She decides the latter and, not only do they drop her from the project, but the mere inference that Tim’s forcing of the migrant narrative was on the spectrum of racism is met with a lawsuit. There’s a cacophony of noise, tension and unanswered pleas from her mother to let her in that break Jules. She’s emotionally exhausted. The last audio snippet played is of a call from the doctor’s office which moves the play to its last and truly disarming thread.
Now, I sat with how to write the end of this response for a while. I would very much like to discuss the themes brought out at the very end of the play because Jules’ writing and succinct storytelling created a moving close that brought me to tears. But, for the sake of willing you to go see the play yourself, I’ll save it for Jules’ own words to articulate.
Overall, as Australian new work goes, Forgetting Tim Minchin is up there as one of my favourites. What I really valued was how in each conversation the narrative posed didn’t outstay its welcome, nor was it dramaturge’d into oblivion. Jules and Nova had great chemistry on stage together and, in the small theatre space where you could see the audience on the other side of the room so clearly, I felt transported into the world completely.
I highly recommend going to check out this play before it closes on the 29th. Bring some tissues and know you’re in safe hands the entire way.
Forgetting Tim Minchin
Book, Music and Lyrics: Jules Orcullo
Director: Amy Sole
Cast: Jules Orcullo, Nova Raboy
Presented by: Joy Offensive
12th – 29th July
Downstairs Theatre at Belvoir Theatre
Tickets Available Here
Images by Clare Hawley