When hearing them eat an orange makes you insane with rage
You might start singing Journey’s Don’t Stop Believing
Against the dying of the light
About an hour
These were some of the answers I gave to the 94-part questionnaire that Brian Lobel asks participants to complete before his show You Have to Forgive Me, You Have to Forgive Me, You Have to Forgive Me. Sex and the City is central to the show and each question is one that Carrie Bradshaw poses to her New York Star column readers in every episode.
After talking through your answers, Brian (a die-hard Sex and the City fan) will pick an episode for you both to watch that he feels may help you work through current thoughts surrounding your own relationships. This exercise on one-on-one performance is a strange beast. I was aware that I would be partly responsible for the creation of the evening at hand, and because we would create the performance together, in reviewing Brian, I would also be reviewing myself.
The space at Ovalhouse is set up to look like a bedroom, though Brian indicates it’s tidier than his room at home. While it’s clear this is a performance space, the way it contains all the hallmarks of a real bedroom suggests this experience will fall somewhere between theatre and reality. Brian offers a range of nightwear for participants to change into, if they wish. It’s an invitation to become more comfortable and willing to be open, but it also gives people an excuse to distance themselves from the experience – to play a part, to wear a costume.
Brian makes it clear that you cannot attend the performance if you have not completed the survey. In fact, answering the survey is where your performance begins – you have to decide how to perform your self through your answers and how much to reveal. When Brian asked me about my answers I was honest, indicating which were lies to myself and which ones I’d gone back and changed later on.
From this discussion, Brian chose an episode for us to watch. We chatted throughout and once Brian and I both reacted to a moment simultaneously: “So cute!’ Brian exclaimed, as I said ‘he’s so sweet!’ It was just like hanging out with a friend.
Brian uses Sex and the City a bit like an astrology chart or Tarot cards – as an interpretative system. Through choosing an episode that he thinks will relate to you, Brian uses Sex and the City as his system to make you do your own self-analysis through art. Once the system is in place, it’s easy to see things within it as applicable to your life.
Sometimes I lead the performance, and sometimes Brian did. I did really notice the first physical contact Brian made with me. Though I was comfortable with it, I imagine the experience would be different if Brian had been a heterosexual man, or a woman. How would I have physically related to the performer then?
The show was like bad therapy, in a good way. There was a specialness in being able to talk to someone who didn’t know me, and who I wasn’t going to see again. Brian had no preconceptions of me and I knew that I wouldn’t be making him Christmas dinner any time soon. There’s something unique about that relationship.
Though it only lasted an hour, my relationship with Brian is one that will endure in my memory. We met in a theatre bar, had some chats and giggles, and finished it with a really genuine hug, ending things on mutual terms, with no great future promises made to each other. And, like Carrie Bradshaw, it left me with some questions:
Who had been the performer, and who the audience?
Was the show more about Brian than it was about me?
Was I too honest?
Was I not honest enough?
If I give this show a one star review, does that make me a one-star person?
Will Brian and I ever see each other again and will it be slightly odd, or will we become BFF?
Did Brian really have a good time, or was he just pretending?
Should I have taken along my own pyjamas?
Did I wear the wrong shoes?