With a name like
Confessions leaves you longing for a little more grit, a few more coffee stains on Joanie’s spotless apron.
The titular girl is Joanie Little, a quirky, downtrodden anthropology graduate with a too-good-to-be-real, loveable personality, an obsession with primatologist Jane Goodall, and a terrific singing voice. Brave solo performer and writer Rebecca Perry clearly thrills in utilising that voice, intermittently erupting into song: it’s impossible not to admire her guts, what with the weight of the entire show hanging above her head, and such potential for over-reach. Her sparkling performance is endearing and note-perfect in its craft, yet begins to devolve into a static, over-rehearsed spectacle at this point. Brilliant musically but theatrically staid, her powerful and emotive tones feel awkwardly shoehorned, as Joanie cuts a lonely figure on the stage, without context or theatrical accompaniment to keep the narrative alive.
So, what is the narrative? Well, Joanie is an archetypical romcom/sitcom kooky underdog, who demonstrates, in broad strokes, the ins and outs of her days and nights at Gabe’s Cafe, Toronto. Threaded loosely through is a ‘jungle’ metaphor, comprising animalistic caricatures of her colleagues and regular patrons, which, for a supposed anthropology graduate, are rather shallow and reliant upon well-trodden clichés. In fact the same could be said of the entire show: it’s fun, whimsical and animated, full of energy and vivacity, but formulaic to a fault, with each insubstantial little tragedy in Joanie Little’s life being no more than a token obstacle in the path of her happily-ever-after story.
As a light-hearted, cabaret-style piece it works: delightful at best, and saccharine at worst, Confessions follows the plot of every romantic fairy tale you’ve ever seen. Charming but uncomplicated, Perry commits to her character full-heartedly, but, in a crucial misstep for a one-woman show, performs one-way, never acknowledging or bridging the gap with the audience, subsequently feeling lively yet never ‘alive’. An well-crafted light entertainment, featuring a flawlessly formulaic klutz, fun but flat and cloyingly clean, Confessions leaves you longing for a little more grit, a few more coffee stains on Joanie’s spotless apron.