The real beauty that lies within an opportunity like Fringe festival, is the chance to tell your story. Go one step further, and it is the incredible bravery you can hold while standing in front of so many strangers, night after night, telling that story – especially one such as this. John Arthur Sweet, takes to his stage, performing Pt 1: Outside ,in the Laneway, Under the Stars. Diving deep into his past to share with us, his story of humanity, emotions, realisations and discovery. Embarking on a lyrical odyssey that celebrates the importance of sharing LGBTQ+ stories. With a delicate interplay of words and emotions, this introspective performance takes us on a personal journey of self-discovery. A show that gives us little pieces to what is no doubt a larger than life puzzle of the human he is today. A queer survivor.
The stage itself is all it really needed to be, minimalistic, effectively centering Sweet as the focal point of the performance. From the very beginning, Sweet’s poetic storytelling effortlessly transports us to a small Canadian town in the vibrant 1970s. As an outsider within his community, he fearlessly shares the complexities of growing up gay, painting a vivid tapestry of his personal triumphs and struggles. His narrative serves as a testament to the transformative power of self-expression, resonating with authenticity and captivating the audience’s hearts. Lacking elaborate visuals, it felt intimate, just us and Sweet, with words as his weapon, it was the images they evoked that stuck with you.
Sweets words possess a natural rhythm, weaving together moments of whimsy and vulnerability. Through his poignant storytelling, he paints vibrant images of his childhood memories and these vivid snapshots linger in our minds, evoking a range of emotions long after the performance concludes. While Outside the Laneway showcases the power of LGBTQ+ narratives, there are moments when the pacing and transitions feel slightly disjointed. However, these minor hiccups do not overshadow the overall impact of the performance. The authenticity and sincerity with which Sweet shares his story shine through, leaving a lasting impression on the audience.
It is not often we are offered such an intimate glimpse into an artist’s personal journey. Sweet is truly a mosaic of all that he has encountered and he has framed this mosaic for the world to see, offering the opportunity to gain just a little bit more valuable understanding. No matter how versed you are on sensitive matters such as LGBTQ+ experiences, there is always room for more empathy, more humanity and more safety in our world. We can truly know someone by going backwards, and if you are ever given the chance to go backwards and meet someone’s soul, please do. Please do and protect it with all you have, we all deserve to be known and we all deserve to be protected, and Sweet is such a sweet reminder of this.
Recommended Drink: A classy Gin and Tonic “sophisticated and multilayered, but ultimately clear”