CJ McLean, standing in front of an audience, baring his soul, is really the only way that one can describe this memoir show. Often it felt like you were being given the insight to someone’s personal diary, except it was also like reading your own thoughts, which is particularly striking as it was only finished the morning of the performance.
The show’s journey goes from a melancholy tale of heartbreak to an inspiring journey of facing your fears and owning up to what you really want in life, as he talked about the things he has done and been through over the past year or two and what has affected him.
His stories are interspersed with renditions of songs by female artists such as Kate Bush, Fiona Apple, and most importantly, Tori Amos, that, over the years, have connected with and influenced him. He often stops to talk about the way these women have influenced both his work and his life, and how their words were able to give him strength through his darker and more troubling times. (“These words are not my own, but they allowed me to find my voice.”) CJ makes the point to stop and explain that female voices have been more conducive and more inspiring for what he wanted to put into this show.
Although touted as a one-man cabaret show, it would be remiss of me not to praise the amazing work of Paul Sinkinson who accompanied on piano. There was an occasion or two where Paul stole the limelight with his incredible skills and even, at the end, CJ made sure there was plenty of love and praise heaped on his talents.
My only criticisms are that the show felt like it may have peaked a little early, with everything being said by about the halfway point, and that he couldn’t quite seem to remember his talking points. Both of these can be forgiven when you learn that this is CJ’s first ever show and one anticipates what he will bring in coming years.
Nonetheless, it was still captivating and left people with what can only be described as a nice, warm, fuzzy feeling, and helped the audience to a realisation about life and the one thing holding us back the most is ourselves.