In a festival jam-packed with every flavour of entertainment from cabaret and burlesque to circus and dance, sometimes it’s nice to get your Fringe binge in the form of good old fashioned stand-up comedy, and when it comes to taking a seat for an hour to listen to the comedic musings of a human, you can’t go past Australia’s adopted British funnyman, Gordon Southern.
Known for his exceptionally well-researched, highly entertaining and finely honed shows, That Boy Needs Therapy takes audiences in an unexpectedly personal direction, making fans feel closer to the heart of the man than previous shows such as 2012/13’s A Brief History of History (a brilliant, fast-paced show in which Southern somehow managed to educate the audience on the history of humans in an hour, all while being almost unbearably entertaining).
This time around Southern wants to have a chat about something that’s close to his heart. Therapy. Seeking help. And he does so while managing to remain manically hilarious, his openness and honesty about his struggles with alcohol and the separation from his Adelaidian wife humanising him, inspiring empathy – which is hard to do when one considers this is a man who lives in an endless Summer on his comedy circuit around the festivals of the World.
As always, Southern establishes an incredible rapport with the crowd, who hung on his every word in this “group therapy session.” The thing with That Boy Needs Therapy, is that you never know if you’re about to laugh your ass off or mutter “Awww” in sympathy, and you find out very quickly that you don’t mind either way. A highly experienced comedian, Southern is an incredibly accomplished storyteller, and the hour flies by gifting you that escapism that all Fringe-goers long for in their Fringe binge. Of course, there was a heckler, but Southern engaged with and eventually dispatched them with the expertise befitting a seasoned comedian, giggling delightedly at the interaction and being firm without being overly harsh.
Southern relays his tales with incredible detail, the description of each element of the story, such as the characteristics and personality of his two therapists, delivered with the finest of detail. You can picture them as clearly as watching a show on TV, and the callbacks work brilliantly because of this. It’s a rapid ride, as always with Southern, but you can keep up as he jumps back and forth through time, providing mostly his own sound bites and with some subtle lighting transitions. There’s interstate banter (mostly about there being fuck all to do in Adelaide), there are quips about reality TV, gentrification, and – in a highlight of the show – a long rant about vaping, all delivered in Southern’s frenzied, engaging style. That Boy Needs Therapy is so incredibly funny but then, every now and then, so suddenly sad, deep, dark.
While, of course, this is a comedy show, and therefore mostly funny, there is something at the heart of That Boy Needs Therapy that is worth paying attention to and keeping in mind. Southern gets serious towards the end, talking about the worrying statistics of suicide in our country, and his decision, as a result, to take a collection for Beyond Blue directly after the show. As the crowd filters out Southern has an excited, humble interaction with each punter, clearly stoked at the connection he managed to make with his “therapy group” for the evening. And just how are you supposed to not love the man all the more for it? Southern’s ability to pull this show together with effective callbacks around mental health in an inclusive and genuinely funny way makes That Boy Needs Therapy a glittering jewel in the crown of his impressive comedy career.