Jon Bennett: Fire In The Meth Lab
Jon Bennett @ Tuxedo Cat – The Wine Underground
8:30pm, Fri 21 Feb 2014
After my first Jon Bennett show last year, I decided to attend that any show that he puts on. His honest storytelling style makes it easy to connect with him, and his ability to conjure humour from the seemingly impossible has an addictive quality; you can’t wait to hear what happens next.
Fire In The Meth Lab opens with a letter to Jon’s brother, Tim, in prison; Jon bids him a perfunctory greeting, then announces his intent to write a show – this show – about him. Tim’s reply – and all subsequent replies, played between “acts” in the performance – grow increasingly profane in their insistence that the show not be written; needless to say, they fell on deaf ears.
Tim was in prison after having been busted for meth production (a replica of the wreckage of his “lab” littered the stage). The story of how he got busted was both funny and genuinely exciting, but what was even better was seeing Tim grow up; before the meth addict, before the man who worked for (and against) bikie gangs, there was a brother. A brother on a family farm, son of a Pentecostal priest.
There’s plenty of glorious nostalgia to their early brotherhood – I was called up onstage to help demonstrate their awesome “Belly Bucking” game – and, despite the cruelty of youth, there’s still a warmth to Jon’s descriptions of being bullied by his older sibling. Mind you, Jon gets (sweet, sweet) revenge by disclosing Tim’s bizarre obsession with Jason Donovan… including repeated callbacks to the Jason Donovan board game (which had some ludicrous questions).
Bennett’s tales rattle along at a rapid pace, and it’s obvious that this is not a show intended to butcher his brother’s character (Jason Donovan references notwithstanding), but rather to try and understand why he wound up making the life choices he did. And everything was fun and friendly and wonderful…
…until someone heckled him.
Heckled. At a narrative show. And the heckle was loud and rounded, like someone under the influence (of something) was getting annoyed that there wasn’t enough “meth” in the performance.
Jon’s first response was witty. His response to the second heckle was a stare. To the third interruption, a plea to sanity. The fourth? He referred to the heckler as his brother.
And I couldn’t tell if he was joking or not.
But the presence of that heckler in the room… well, that kept me on edge. And not in a good way; the outbursts, when they were coherent, were boorish. Banal.
And I thought about that heckler a lot. A lot. And I wondered whether the heckler was, indeed, Jon’s brother; if not, then attempts to claim so were misguided at best. If so… well, that means Tim has some real problems in social arena such as the one he found himself this evening – and that makes me a little bit sad.
Still, Jon Bennett’s storytelling style remains almost beyond compare: he can weave a wonderfully intimate – and wonderfully funny – tale out of any mishap involving his family, threading many such incidents together to form a wonderfully cohesive whole. But one wonders whether this show may become one of the many mishaps that spawns another tale in another show.
— Pete Muller (@festivalfreakAU) February 22, 2014