Venue: Old Fitzroy Theatre (Woolloomooloo NSW), Jun 26 – 29, 2018
Playwright: Toby Schmitz
Cast: Toby Schmitz
It is a convention in autobiographies that they involve vignettes of major significance, with important occurrences that have shaped a person’s being, occupying centre stage. Typically, one gives a recount in chronology, from a childhood that reveals background and ancestry, through to career highlights and personal triumphs, always with a healthy dose of trauma placed strategically, to elicit some sort of poignancy from its audience. In Toby Schmitz Live, an actor-slash-playwright talks about himself in a disarmingly casual manner, rejecting the obvious constraints of aforementioned assumptions, to paint a self-portrait using rules of his own determination. We obtain an impression of the artist, entirely accurate and immediate, but secrets remain undisclosed.
There might be no dirty laundry to speak of, but Schmitz’s presentation is not devoid of vulnerability. The complete absence of a fourth wall exposes the performer to intense scrutiny. We watch him manifest a mode of presentation extraordinary with its degree of naturalism; as actor, Schmitz’s ability to render invisible the devices of theatre is deeply fascinating. Early sequences seek to explore the unpredictable nature of the live form. We are reminded of its title Toby Schmitz Live, and the show seems intent on delivering just that; Toby Schmitz is live, and anything can happen. There is a degree of daring and confidence that will no doubt impress, even if Australian audiences are guaranteed to always be excessively polite.
Much of the piece feels no different to genres of stand up comedy, but Schmitz’s penchant for theatricality often rears its head. It is an effective technique, to have us let down our guard in the presence of his spontaneity, then be met subsequently, with a more dramatic approach that he so cunningly, and effortlessly, weaves through unsuspectingly. The yarns that our star spins, are thoroughly amusing, although largely inconsequential. It is his charisma, and undeniable skill, that has us invested in the storytelling, but it is unclear if many of us will find lasting relevance in what he has to share. Ultimately, it is a personal, albeit slightly surface, representation of Schmitz’s life as he knows it. We are invited to come in contact with his world for a confined moment, and we go on our separate ways, none of us transformed.