Sylvia Plath is one of the most revered poets of the twentieth century. When reading her work, you notice how she’s able to capture what is sometimes hidden in the deep recesses of our minds—the thoughts and beliefs that we often disguise. As you delve a little deeper into her personal life, you cannot overlook her mental health issues and how aspects of this are mirrored through her writing. While it’s clear Jack Lynch is heavily inspired by the late poet in his performance of Confessions from the Bell Jar, he isn’t reliant on Plath and doesn’t simply use her work as a guide. Instead, he takes it a step further by sparking a conversation and raising issues that often go unnoticed.
Throughout the show, Lynch unashamedly lays out a series of confessions—whether it be his daddy issues, rejection of conformity, or intoxicated one-night stands with strange men. Such moments are expressed through a cohesive mixture of storytelling, poetry reading, and original compositions. Despite the serious nature of Confessions from the Bell Jar, Lynch also manages to sprinkle light comedy onto these dark undertones and finds a way to laugh at them. While he could have so easily taken the route of being ambiguous or assertive with the topic of mental health, Lynch’s show is a breath of fresh air as he takes the audience on a steady journey of wishful insights, wicked humour, and musical wit.
A highlight of Confessions from the Bell Jar is a dedication to Plath’s infamous poem ‘Daddy,’ which is said to have been written about the fatherly voices inside of her head. Lynch adapts this by reflecting on his own fatherly voices and how he refuses to simply “get over it and move on.” Another high point of the show comes in the form of an invitation, as Lynch asks the audience to confess their truths on a piece of paper and drop them into a communal bell jar in the foyer. As Lynch suggests, this is to demonstrate that none of us are alone in our struggles, insecurities, and secrets—especially if there’s a way for them to be united. This connection between performer and audience is refreshing and offers something rare during this year’s Adelaide Fringe.
Plath’s work is considered to be an important touchstone for humans to openly express the many facets of our existence. Lynch not only demonstrates this quality of Plath’s work, but he evolves with it. His honesty and sheer talent also prove to be far too great for the petite stage of Hell’s Kitchen. Confessions from the Bell Jar is not only a must for Sylvia Plath fans, but also for those who want to see a wholehearted cabaret production.
Confessions from the Bell Jar is showing at Rhino Room in Hell’s Kitchen (Friday 14 February, Saturday 15 February, Tuesday 18 February, Wednesday 19 February) and at BASEM3NT in BASEM3NT Studios (Saturday 15 February and Saturday 22 February) during the 2020 Adelaide Fringe.
Reviewed performance: 14 February 2020