‘Don’t worry, you’re in safe hands,’ Gordon Southern reassures his audience after casually dropping the fact he’s been a stand-up for more than 15 years.
I couldn’t have put it better myself.
He may be performing in a room above a pub, but he’s got more experience than most acts at this festival, as demonstrated through a delivery of bulletproof confidence and gag-rich script.
The title refers to how his career panned out, spending part of the year in the Australian festivals with his Adelaide-born wife and part in his native Britain, always avoiding winter. But that is not the main thrust of this story, nor is the fact that aforesaid wife is now an ex-wife.
The divorce hit him hard, although initially he pretended it didn’t, only slowly realising that the secret home-alone drinking might be a symptom of something deeper. So he finally sought help.
Thus begins the story proper, of his experiences with two very different therapists in South London. One was the epitome of professionalism, if rather too straight-laced for the full-time joker, the other a former crack addict now treating others, who was more on Southern’s wavelength. Though professionalism was not high on his priorities, as this engrossing story makes increasingly clear.
The eye-opening tale is expertly told, and Southern has even brought a low-fi theatricality to it, lighting changes and all, to reflect his mood. Though he’s clearly fearful of being seen as too earnest or pretentious – some chance! – and undermines the loftiness of such ambitious with a self-effacing aside.
For Southern is the ultimate Everyman, mocking the fact that his career peaked when he voiced a corporate parrot, signalling all the ‘proper jokes’ in the show with a mock-swagger, and bringing a flippancy to his serious plight without ever undermining it. It builds a rapport that allows the audience to follow the twists and turns of the tale with him, without ever labouring his undoubted skills as a storyteller.
It’s a funny and compelling yarn, and one with a message, too. For ultimately, A Man For Two Seasons becomes a plea for other men to seek emotional help rather than bottling it up.
That may seem like an odd message after learning of his experiences. But then if even a woefully reckless therapist can be of some help, imagine what a good one could do.