This gig is a total surprise – just what the Fringe should be. Despite being classed as comedy in the Fringe program and having a title and image that make it look like something else entirely, Michael Pope is Gay for Pay is in fact spoken word - a simply told tale of the time when Pope got employed (basically by accident) as an operator on a gay sex phone line. He turned out to be very good at it.
Storytelling is a peculiar art, and Pope is very good at this too. He has the necessary qualities: an agreeable voice that is a pleasure to listen to, not too much emphasis so as to be jarring and not so soothing as to make you drift off. It helps that he has a good yarn to tell. Phone sex, or ‘the theatre of the imagination,’ as Pope’s boss Barry dubs it, is a fascinating subject, and Pope balances humour with drama well.
He is a gracious performer with a light touch. There was a loud drunk woman in the audience who disturbed everyone by talking but Pope was able to carry on without missing a beat. Despite disruption the audience are captivated throughout, hanging on Pope’s every word. The only quibble would be with some structural decisions: the black telephone which appears near the end of the tale might have been introduced earlier to help the shape of the story and the ending could have had more weight.
Pope has another claim to fame, as a visionary filmmaker and also director of Dresden Dolls music videos. He has not promoted himself, or this show, by using this connection at all, but it’s worth mentioning here because it may make more people go to his gig, and that would be a good thing. Highly recommend you go and hear what Pope will say for pay.