Confessions of a Mormon Boy

I’ve a confession of my own to make; when I chose to review this show I thought it was something entirely different. I was expecting a humorous look at the world of Mormons from one of their own. What I got was something entirely different and, if I’m honest, something that’s difficult to review as theatre. But here goes…Confessions of a Mormon Boy isn’t a devised show. It’s the true life-story of the performer, Steven Fales, who, raised a Mormon, battled against his latent homosexuality for almost 15 years. After excommunication and divorce he finds himself outside the Mormon community for the first time ever and descends into drug use and prostitution in New York, finally hitting rock-bottom and starting his journey back towards the light.The positives: Fales is an engaging performer and he tells his tale with showmanship and a wry sense of humour. He sings, he dances and the first half of the show is a fascinating, pithy look behind the closed doors of the Mormon community. There’s no zealot like a convert and he’s gayer than a bag of rainbows. The contrast of this campness with the starched orthodoxy of the Church really works.Unfortunately, without this contrast, Fales’ showmanship undermines the show. Over-the-top characterisation and throwing yourself around the stage are all well and good when talking about the weird world of Brigham Young University or the bizarre psychotherapists hired by the church to ‘cure’ you. But apply this same staginess to the sadness of divorce and it just feels cheap. Likewise, it’s perfectly natural for Fales to expect sympathy when describing his struggle to conform against his nature or when speaking about losing his kids in the divorce. But to skate over the fact that this divorce happened, not because he was gay, but because he was unfaithful is to lose this sympathy. This is when the play starts to feel like therapy-by-committee, which is exactly what it is. Good show or bad? Really that’s not for me to say. You’ll either find it inspiring or irritating, depending entirely on your personal circumstances. Personally, while I applaud Fales for his (largely) unflinching honesty there’s a time and a place. Good theatre is not just an excuse for personal catharsis, and charging an audience £10 per ticket to help you get over your own emotional issues seems self-indulgent. Fales would doubtless argue that he’s telling his story to help other young men in his position but, if that’s the case, I can’t help but feel his considerable energies would have been better applied elsewhere.These are the confessions of a Mormon boy; listen if you want. I’d rather see Fales put his talents to better use.

Reviews by Tom King

Summerhall

A Fortunate Man

★★★
Underbelly, Cowgate

The Cat's Mother

★★★
The Stand Comedy Club 3 & 4

Phill Jupitus: Sassy Knack

★★★★
Traverse Theatre

Nigel Slater’s Toast

★★★
CanadaHub @ King's Hall in association with Summerhall

Famous Puppet Death Scenes

★★★★
Assembly George Square Gardens

Jess Robinson: No Filter

★★★★

The Blurb

The off-Broadway hit! After excommunication, divorce, prostitution and drugs, a Utah Mormon reclaims his kids and Donny Osmond smile. This true story is told with humour, song and the Book of Mormon.