The image of the tortured artist is a popular one; the sad sack, the alcoholic, the neurotic recluse. But even for artists who might be considered “normal”, there remains the rather insistent self-doubt: “Why am I doing this?” In Debra Oswald’s solo memoir performance, she explores the life events leading to her career as a writer and the many, many trials she’s faced over that career.
Perhaps most well-known for her work on the hit television show Offspring, Oswald began writing as a love affair with the theatre so it’s only fitting for her to come to the stage to air the consequences of such a love. Surrounded by the generic archive boxes that represent the finite physical artefacts of her life and career, Oswald covered the key inspirations of her life from her parents, to her blossoming encounters with sex and desire, to her husband and kids, to the inescapable nagging pull of her characters.
Direction from Lee Lewis kept the pacing rolling along like a casual, comfortable TED Talk but it was Oswald’s dogged attitude, her penchant for laughter, that made the performance endlessly enjoyable. Oswald is clearly a very skilled writer and her ability to capture an audience with a great story well-told was on full display in this script. On the one hand were the relatable small sufferings of life like romantic rejection or the larger issues of feeling misunderstood by a parent that resonated with the shared humanity of the audience. But, on the other, the parts that seemed to ring most true were the frank and honest revelations of failure, navigating the dichotomy of genius and worthless that plagues an artist’s life, and grappling with a universal question: why?
Amongst the immensely funny anecdotes of bad dates and insufferable family members, there shines a reassuring yet unstable truth in Oswald’s perspective that some questions are unanswerable even as we construct these elaborate justifications as the scaffolds of our lives. Ultimately, what matters is that we just keep going.
Is There Something Wrong with that Lady? is running at the SBW Stables Theatre from April 13th – 24th
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