Bad to Worse

Uncomfortably hilarious! The wonderfully endearing Joel O’Brien and the brazen yet enchanting Matthew Semple pair up to create a fantastic evening of relatable and politically loaded comedy fused together with music and cabaret performance.

The evening begins with Joel O’Brien’s That Awkward Moment. With a powerful opening number allowing O’Brien to confidently burst onto the stage through song and for Redmond Lopez to show off his gorgeous, and often cheeky, keyboard accompaniment, the show’s beginning prodded a questioning of whether the work would be awkward at all. O’Brien has a gorgeous voice and heartwarming presence when performing his creatively tweaked renditions of memorable hits and ballads from the past 20 years. It is only when his inner voice begins to compromise that confidence that we truly see the self doubt, the neurotic and the uncomfortable seep its way in and the show truly begins.


As Joel takes his audience on a journey through no doubt some of the most awkward moments of his life – and indeed in most cases our own lives – we as audience members are able to push aside our envy of his gorgeous voice and presence when singing and connect with his inner over thinker. From traumatic childhood memories like struggling on the debate team or parents not showing up to performances, to coming of age milestones like parties and alcohol or flirting and failing, Joel’s hour long cabaret covers a diverse combination of relatable awkward social situations, adaptations of contemporary music, and clever incorporations of viral online content only at the most unexpected yet appropriate of times.


Joel is a delight to watch and an even bigger delight to relate to. His show combines the usual sex, alcohol, and desperation that comes with living a life that never quite feels comfortable. Joel opens up about mortifying experiences of his own, as well as meandering from realms of being forgotten to becoming happily invisible. The stories bounce through topics, but more importantly teeter between the funny and the tragic. There is always a clear sense of heart and vulnerability from Joel as he opens up to us. We laugh and feel along with him as he reflects on how his mental stability can hang by a thread and the struggles and frustration are just as engaging as the jokes and musical numbers. With sass, stress and a rubber chicken, Joel and his accompanist Redmond charm the audience into enjoying the awkward, even when it makes us cringe.


From the endearingly awkward to the taboo and uncomfortable, Bad to Worse definitely lives up to its name retrospectively with The Gospel According to Matthew embracing the warm up that That Awkward Moment gave to the audience and stepping over the comfortable line even further. If That Awkward Moment made us cringe, The Gospel According to Matthew makes us choke on our own shock and shakes us immediately out of our comfort levels.


With Tim Minchin-esque songs and jokes churning through topics such as detention centres, relationship control, toxic self love and society’s offence levels, one would think that this show would induce a ripple effect of arm crossing and door slamming. But Matthew sneaks these topics in with only the most sincere and respectful of perspectives – to the liberal, atheist, hopeful future dweller – and his politics are always in the interest of the minority, the oppressed, or the overall survivors of the unjust or unfathomable.


Within the first moments of the show’s eye widening blasphemy, Matthew acknowledges his identity as a straight white male and embraces the potential of his privilege to do good. Although his identity acknowledgment is thrown in as a brief joke amongst an opening skit, it inadvertently sets a foundation for the showcase ahead. While Matthew analyses the treatment of refugees, briefly but accurately touches on women’s fears in the beginnings of a relationship, and enters the minds of poisonous politicians, his humorous approach is always grounded in an acknowledgement of his personal perspective. Even when he speaks for minorities or ‘otherness’ his heart is with the victims and the vulnerable and his performance is always valiant and vivacious.


The show may be heavily loaded with politics and uncomfortable realities of post-millennial living, but Matthew brings a cheeky charm and undeniable suave to his wit. He even throws in party tricks like turning wine into water, odes to musical theatre with classic ballads and melodrama, and a rap turned poetry mash up that fires up and then breaks down why we preach and who we preach for.

With a fabulous fusion of the hilarious and the tragic, these two young men combine their love of music, their natural inclination towards comedy, and all of their charm to a show that is loaded with promise.

– Written by Rhumer Diball May 2 2017

28th – 29th APR 2017.
Photo Credit Creative Futures Photography


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