Originally billed as a pared -down reincarnation of his show, Scarred For Life, Josh Belperio’s 2020 Fringe offering, Right Here, Right Now is a topical critique of Australia’s current political and environmental circumstances.
Announced a week prior to opening, the show marks a new chapter in Belperio’s creative output, shifting from the autobiographical, in Scarred For Life’s recount of personal trauma and healing, and 30,000 Notes’ choral contemplations of family and sexuality, towards a broader social and cultural critique.
The show takes place in a small room at Holden Street Theatres, with a high ceiling and interior stylings reminiscent of an early twentieth century colonial home. Its walls are decorated with work of fellow artists, the audience occupying much of the room surrounding Belperio standing free at a keyboard with a suspended velvet curtain suspended behind it.
The show’s first half sees Belperio venting his frustrations at political hypocrisy and inaction on the part of Australia’s Coalition government, our attention drawn to the links between political donations and the fossil fuel economy as well as to environmental crises, religious discrimination, and authoritarianism. Belperio’s messages are rooted in a keen sense of social justice, with a focus on issues facing marginalised peoples, and he considers the show a platform for anger (boldly stating “if you don’t like this show, I don’t give a stuff”).
Much of the show alternates between free dialogue (with a clear sense of direction) and song. The first upbeat number imagines an evangelical Christian who deifies Scott Morrison, ironically finding themselves travelling through a raging bushfire. Later, Belperio performs the humorous ‘Dear Scott Morrison’, his latest song from a social media video critiquing the Prime Minister’s response to the bushfire crisis. Rounding this section out is the opening song from Bundle Of Sticks, a musical-in-development concerned with a gay conversion therapy centre in Coober Pedy.
The second half of the show pivots to focus on the ‘velvet rage’, a term coined by psychologist and author Alan Downs to describe the experience of queer men growing up in a heteronormative world, internalising much of their shame and anger and obscuring it through material wealth, beauty, or creativity. This rage, Belperio explains, is filtered in socially acceptable ways (such as sass), and Downs’ subsequent approach is concerned with constructively moving through this challenging psychological terrain. One detects a sharp self-awareness on Belperio’s part in both his own social filtering (as he identifies, his witty lyrical writing) and constructive response through his work as an activist-composer.
The tone of the songs changes as a result, as in ‘Fire’, a song drawing parallels between queer experience and forces of nature where one is reminded of Jason Robert Brown’s passionate ballads. A slam-inspired poem, written at the recent religious discrimination bill protest, follows. Finally, Belperio performs the titular song, Right Here, Right Now, a call to arms moving between rap-like verses and a catchy Pasek-and-Paul chorus hook that could easily get radio play on Triple J Unearthed or the like.
Musically, Belperio demonstrates a keen awareness of contemporary musical theatre styles coupled with clever wordsmithery. His Australian accent, entirely appropriate given the content, works well alongside a vocal delivery that sensibly relies on his strengths. Given the short turn around for the show’s material, some songs could benefit from judicious pruning, something further mentoring on balancing song form and emotional contour would assist with.
In all, Right Here, Right Now marks a fresh direction in Belperio’s writing, positioning him towards towards a career trajectory rivalling Tim Minchin or Eddie Perfect.
Reviewed performance: 21 February 2020