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Confessions from the Bell Jar review

By Anna McShane-Potts

Photo taken in the gender-neutral bathroom of The Butterfly Club

On Monday night I was lucky enough to go and see fellow Monash student, Clifton-Hill Barista, and cabaret artist Jack Lynch’s performance Confessions from the Bell Jar, which was playing at the Melbourne Fringe Festival. Performed at one of my all-time favourite venues, The Butterfly Club.

The venue was dark and dingy, the bar bustling and the waiting area so full of Fringe-enthusiasts that you could barely move. It’s been like this every time I’ve been to The Butterfly Club, bodies spill into the adjoining room as people clamour to get a drink at the bar (or in our case, wait patiently for the mulled wine to be sufficiently mulled). They then call you for the various shows that are playing and the crowd splits to weave up or down the dark, narrow staircases to their respective shows.

My friend and I sat towards the back of a small room and watched Jack’s animated performance which drew from Sylvia Plath’s most famous text, The Bell Jar, as well as her personal diaries and essays. For those who don’t know, Plath was a writer, poet, academic, teacher, wife, mother, and, as Jack says, a woman with an intense insight into the human condition. Plath is perhaps most famous, if not for her wonderful and thought-provoking texts, for how her life ended in 1963 at the young age of 31: suicide.

With our mulled wines in hand, my friend and I watched Jack, who was donning amazing earrings, fantastically extra bright pink nails, and above all a dress with the face of Sylvia Plath plastered across it, discuss his personal relationships to some of the tough themes that Plath deals within her own works.

With the help of thought-provoking personal anecdotes interspersed between quotes from Plath and his own original songs, Jack opened a conversation about depression and isolation, homophobia and asshole bosses, shame and daddy issues, one-night stands and boredom, and the importance of reaching out, just to name a few. Plath, says Jack, uses the metaphor of a bell jar to discuss the struggle to communicate when facing adversity, to confess through the confines of the bell jar. It was a lot to pack into an hour-long performance, but Jack did it expertly and seamlessly. However, he did push the time-limit of his performance with the numerous and extremely entertaining tangents that he went down.

While it might sound like the performance would be tinged by the sadness of these issues, Jack’s witty commentary, often upbeat songs, and focus on the importance of discussion rather than the sadness, leaves you determined for justice and open communication.

The fantastic performance ended with an invitation to write down our own struggles and add them to a communal bell jar, where all of our fears, worries, insecurities and secrets, could become one, proving that none of us are alone.

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