Mustafa Nuristani writes …

Walking into the Locker Room in Portland Hotel can be a daunting experience. But once you have your ‘brave face’ on, the rest is smooth sailing.

At a very young age performer Sophie Kneebone is fast mastering her talent. She creates an environment where character developments and vulnerabilities make the audience (almost) forget about the lower back pain they would be suffering from sitting on those chairs.

Having said that, the show does take your mind off the pain, especially as several characters demand your attention. This show might be in a dingy and weirdly shaped room, but there are some hilariously thigh-slapping moments. It’s not all fun though; the characters also have vulnerabilities that, for some, can be quite confronting.

The mix of characters includes a priest, a psychic, a delinquent teenager, an obsessive and lonely guidance councillor, a local shop owner, an artist and a dead bird. And you have Braveface, the cockatoo-loving guidance councillor suffering from obsessive compulsive disorder. We know this not because she cleans, but because she talks to her dead bird and spends her time trying to create distractions to avoid facing the truth of her life: loneliness.

From that to an obnoxious, ill-mannered and crude young man, who hates school and loves picking on his teachers and is prone to outbursts. Next up is the nasally guidance councillor Linda, and a good side to the character of Daniel, since he understands when he has gone too far and apologises for his inadequacies. Then there’s Percy, the priest with his thick Welsh accent, who preaches the word of Jesus and has no shame in rapping a slightly changed version of an R’n’B soul song.

The show also cleverly touches on the asylum seeker issue. It is done quite tastefully and if you didn’t know any better, it would simply pass you by. The whole thing works not only because it is in the Locker Room, which diminishes any high expectations, but also because the surprising character developments, the pace and the unusually happy-to-be-there audience helps keep the mood light.

For a one-woman show, it definitely takes a lot on with six characters being played concurrently. It would have been nice if the audience had gotten to know the characters more; instead, the show gives snippets here and snippets there, which makes the characters one-dimensional. There isn’t much emotional connection to some of the characters, which means the show can lose audience confidence. Nevertheless, the main character is clear, but even then a touch more background would have made the show brilliant.

The question is, should you go and see it? I say yes, but make sure you take a cushion.

Braveface is playing 24 to 29 September at the Melbourne Fringe Festival. 

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