SUZANNAH BENTLEY has an otherworldly experience at GHOSTBOY’s absurdist neo-cabaret comedy collaboration with cross-dressing instrumentalist SIR LADY GRANTHAM.
David ‘Ghostboy’ Stavanger appears from a trapdoor in the floor. He carries a banana that he breaks in half and slams down on the table in front of me. Apparently it contains potassium and I should try it. I’ve seen Ghostboy’s poetry performances rouse primary school kids to stand on their chairs and make their teachers blush. I’ve seen his ability to freestyle poems like they’re already fully formed somewhere and he’s the compulsive messenger. But there are no kids here tonight and the blurb warns of adult concepts, so I know this is going to get intense.
The set is a jumble of odd props and various instruments. At the keyboard is Sir Lady Grantham, Ghostboy’s ex-lover and victim of his cannibalistic ways. Ghostboy’s songs, words, and poems are backed-up by Sir Lady Grantham on numerous instruments. There’s also an Auslan interpreter who translates with comically literal gesticulation that I suspect Auslan HQ would find rather offensive. The show explores love, hate, and how sometimes relationships just don’t work out because you end up eating your partner.
Ghostboy’s energy is extreme and contagious as he switches between songs, poems and harassing the audience. He steals our belongings, sips our drinks, cries on our shoulders and asks us awkward questions — it’s simultaneously hilarious and terrifying.
When Ghostboy sings the show’s reprising number We Love You! (As Much As Everybody Else Does), he reminds me of Tom Waits on acid. He bites into a whole lemon and talks an audience member into eating a raw onion. Sir Lady Grantham swans about on stage, switching effortlessly between instruments and acting as Ghostboy’s human prop. Ghostboy — occasionally donning a blue wig — explores a bizarre assortment of themes including gynaecologists, his childhood, Don Juan and dentistry.
We learn about the progression and demise of his relationship with Sir Lady Grantham and meet his mother’s wax head. All of this absurdity would be fascinating enough, but Ghostboy’s beautifully poetic and witty words somehow tie everything together to form a narrative that is almost coherent despite the chaos. His unwavering and adamant delivery brings the words even more to life and you can’t help but be mesmerised by the cadence and force of his speech.
We Love You! (As Much As Everybody Else Does) is uncomfortably crude in parts, uproariously funny and not like anything I’ve seen before. Nothing in the show seems pretentiously conceptual or purely about shock value because it’s all held together by Ghostboy’s wonderful use of language. It’s one of the most fascinating examples of the power of words and speech that I’ve seen — all at once frightening, awkward, beautiful, witty, hilarious and of course spooky.
We Love You! (As Much As Everybody Else Does) ran as part of Brisbane Festival’s Under the Radar program between Sep 20-22. www.brisbanefestival.com.au
SUZANNAH BENTLEY is a Brisbane-based writer, editor and all-round word nerd. She has a Master’s degree in Writing, Editing & Publishing and a penchant for horror films and sparkly things.