When: 21 - 26 September 2017
Where: Errol's & Co.
Written by: Jacqueline Whiting
Directed by: Eidann Glover
Musical Direction by: David McNamara
Composition by: Ryan Smedley
Performed by: Eidann Glover and Jacqueline Whiting
In Bookcrastinators Anonymous I have found my soul home. Like me, Whiting has not finished a book in two years. Recognising a need greater than her own, she has owned up to her social obligations and started a support group for us lost souls and we meet in the upstairs venue at Errol's Café at The Melbourne Fringe.
Like any good novel, Bookcrastinators Anonymous is a epic tale. The hero is us, the grail is to finish a book, and the obstacles are everything which gets in our way including badly written novels, authors who die before finishing their series', and longings for a simpler time.
Wrapped in a dressing gown, hair still damp from the shower and lots of blankets and pillows around to snuggle into, Whiting tries to create an inviting environment as we enter although there is some trepidation as Glover goes around putting name tags on us all. Somehow, the word anonymous loses its meaning once we all wear our name...
Unlike so many interactive shows though, this is as threatening as anything gets. Noone throws things at us or manhandles us unlike other performances which insist on imposing on the audience. We do get opportunities to speak our truths but the questioning stops as soon as it hits a roadblock rather than trying to plunder through. After all, you have to bottom out for yourself before you can begin the path to recovery!
After trying to make us comfortable by starting the show with a song you might expect to hear leading into story time on Play School we discover that perhaps one of Whiting's biggest obstacles is her sidekick, Glover. Glover is a 'film person' and completely lacking an empathetic awareness of the pain and confusion a true bibliophile suffers at the idea of an unfinished book.
Whiting is a bit of a fantasy nut (as am I) and she talks about what it is which makes a book so engrossing as a child. Do you remember those books you couldn't put down and which caused your mum to send out a search party to find you after three days? Whiting was lost in worlds of brave heroines and magic trials. It wasn't the characters going on the journey. In her dreams it was Jacqueline The Brave and the song 'Daggers and Arrows' is one of the great anthems of the show.
A brief visit to the misery which is the reading of Fifty Shades of Grey lead us to the second great musical number of the show, 'Chick Lit'. The Grey novels were supposed to be female erotica but Whiting lets everyone into the secret all young girls know. The way to really get wet is through romance novels which contain a surprising amount of very intriguing description and innuendo - and have the benefit of being well written as any truly competitive iterary genre has.
Brookcrastinators Anonymous is a show full of laughs, truths, and interactive games. It is feel good fun which, for me, was so accurate in describing my love/hate relationships with books and being in a room with others with the same affliction was positively uncanny. By the pre-show reading is The Catcher In The Rye by J.D. Salinger. Good luck with that!
Whiting's singing is a bit pitchy although I suspect some of that was first night nerves because she developed more vocal confidence as the show moved forward. It doesn't matter because it kind of adds to the 'we are all just fellow flawed human beings' sense which comes with support groups.
The best way to enjoy this evening is to bring up a pre-show drink from the café, admit to yourself all the books you have yet to read, and then after the show head downstairs for dinner and talk through your book horror stories with your mates. Pain is always easier to bare when it is shared, which is what Bookcrastinators Anonymous is all about.