With a set made to look like a funeral parlour and a cast and band made to dress in all-black funeral clothing, it’s a bit difficult to imagine what a show titled My Mum Died and I Wanna Sing About It will be like. I most certainly hadn’t prepared myself for a night of dazzling cabaret and a rollercoaster ride of emotions.
Not that these are bad things, quite the contrary.
I’m of the opinion that My Mum Died would not have worked nearly as well as it did were it not for its sole star, who was also writer and director. Jack Francis West commanded the stage and audience with a black hole-like charisma that draws you in from the word go. His perfectly cultivated persona was the ideal mix of self-confident, self-depreciative, and most importantly, profoundly authentic.
Of course, it would be difficult to write and perform a show discussing one’s trauma without baring one’s soul; but what Francis West did exceptionally well was explore the ugly side of grief in a completely unabashed way. One moment the audience was being regaled with tales of drunken visits to gay sex saunas and consequent gastro-related emergency room visits that had us howling with laughter, and then the next we were being read journal excerpts detailing the final three days Francis West spent with his mum.
Emotional whiplash of that calibre would typically be quite jarring, but My Mum Died took us on a journey, guiding us through the many twists and turns that come with such a traumatic event.
Further guiding the audience’s emotions was the excellent selection of musical performances speckled throughout the show. Aided by a wonderful band, Francis West shone especially during these various cabaret-style numbers; kicking off the show with a dazzling performance of ‘Dead Mom’ from the broadway musical Beetlejuice and then ending it with the beautiful and tear-inducing ‘The Goodbye Song’ from Smash. By the time the lights dimmed, the room was filled with a chorus of sniffles.
One line that particularly stuck with me was, “we don’t talk enough about death.” To me, this is a painful truth that My Mum Died tried its darndest to change. Utilising a brilliant mix of humour and seriousness, the show dove deep into one of the best explorations of grief and the trauma that comes with it I’ve ever seen. Francis West should be commended for his magnificent performance and his willingness to discuss such a personal and intimate topic.