All praise for the songs

By Jessica Cornish

With its creator standing upstage, arms spread wide and hands busy below the waist, The Gospel According to Matthew began. This fifty-minute cabaret production encapsulated the world through the eyes of Matthew Semple, with his inner thoughts and views splashed across the stage in form of song and story-telling.

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The music-theatre-born-and-bred Semple performed his self-professed ‘shitty cabaret’ to his cosy audience, happily huddled into the intimate performance space of The Butterfly Club. This young performer had a pleasing amount of confidence and a strong stage presence; he performed with the polished hallmarks and training of a musical-theatre babe with clear diction, a strong tone and a nice dash of vibrato.

Despite the thoroughly scripted and rehearsed narrative, Semple was also comfortable enough to partake in some impromptu banter with his audience, which provoked some of the funnier moments of the night.

Unfortunately I felt the performance overall lacked a strong and clear overarching theme to its detriment, and throughout the show there were a number of one-off and throwaway jokes that for me often missed the mark. Substituting the satire and wit for cheap shots and crude humour- small dick jokes and making fun of paraolympians for example – certainly wasn’t my favourite comic styling. There was also not much character development of the main man himself: Semple touched on being recently single and ending a long-term relationship for example, however this wasn’t really explored in any detail, and considering the show’s title, it would have been interesting to hear more personal stories and self-reflection.

My favourite moments of the night were easily when Matthew at his piano took the limelight. His songs were well-constructed and entertaining, and focused more adroitly and wittily on numerous social issues currently trending in Australia such as our dubious offshore detention centres and questionable conservative MPs like Dutton and Hanson, which made for both enjoyable and thought-provoking musical numbers. Perhaps some more of these upbeat playful songs added into the mix would better support and inform the less successful moments of story-telling.

In conclusion, Matthew preaches to his crowd to ‘shout your truth’ and go forth: therefore, in truth I believe this cabaret show has the potential to grow and flourish, and hope the narrative can thus become sharper and snappier and as appealing as the music as time goes on.

The Gospel According to Matthew played at The Butterfly Club, 5 Carson Place Melbourne in March 2017.