‘Slow Burn’ was complicated.
In partnership with Fringe Brisbane, Your Man Alex Smith performed a musical theatre and American-styled rock concert that showcased his latest album, ‘Slow Burn’.
Presented at Arcana, the 60-minute performance follows the artist’s lived experience with surviving domestic violence. Alex Smith’s vulnerability and retrospect allowed audiences to understand how he found himself in a relationship that led to his own mother calling the police on his girlfriend, Julia Bryer. With Smith’s powerful vocals, and accompanied by the live band and ensemble performers, ‘Slow Burn’ captivated audiences.
To transition between songs, Smith provided important context and raw narration, which led to the next song. The choreography begins in a Disney thematic, with a blindly-in-love style. This honeymoon phase quickly pushes Smith into the role of rescuer, and Julia Bryer happily assumes the role of the wounded lover. The unhealthy dynamic causes Smith to turn a blind eye to Bryer’s nasty comments and, eventually, violence. In between songs, the artist candidly reflected on how he started to adjust his behaviour to avoid being hurt by his partner. Progressively, Smith’s choreography morphs into natural movement as he begins to return to reality – the relationship he idealised was to his detriment.
After detailing many gruelling moments of abuse, and how he escaped, Smith discussed the torture of continuing to romanticise the relationship after it ended. Looking around, I could see audience members understanding the pain that the artist endured.
The talented cast of ‘Slow Burn’ beautifully accompanied Smith’s hard-hitting performance. Louella Baldwin, who played Julia Bryer, convinced the audience that she was more than “a cartoon devil”. Baldwin’s nuanced performance highlighted how people can fall in love with their abusers and their talent continued to shine when performing a duet with Smith, which showcased the chemistry between the characters.
The ensemble cast successfully assisted in telling the story through moments of physical theatre, dance and vocals – frequently, they changed between being metaphors to characters in the story. A highlight within the ensemble cast was at the end where they reentered wearing shirts with holes ripped in them: a chilling reference to a notable moment Smith recalled. The live band championed the performance and reminded audiences of the excitement of live performance.
Smith’s bravery in sharing his experience and honest thoughts made the event feel incredibly intimate. The audience didn’t just get a concert, we were invited to a rare opportunity to understand the story which birthed the album.
‘Slow Burn’ eloquently depicted how abusive relationships flourish into complicated dynamics that only those involved can truly understand. The performance dives deep into how hurt people can only hurt other people, with an underlying message that there is no excuse for abuse. Smith raised awareness for domestic violence against men – a topic that is often stigmatised, and his courage in using his art to spread awareness and share his story should be applauded. This is a performance for those who like great music, real stories, and musical theatre.
‘Slow Burn’ performs until Friday, 21 October 2022 at Arcana in Moorooka. For more information, visit Fringe Brisbane’s website.