Midsumma: Everything I know I learnt from Madonna

Drawing from his fixation with the pop-music queen/goddess Madonna, performer and writer Wayne Tunks shares some of the messy, complex and joyous events of his past. Everything I know I learnt from Madonna touches upon how an artist can penetrate the soul, inspire and heal someone as they travel the journey of life.

Wayne Tunks

Tunks’s search for love is presented in the intimate and unembellished space of La Mama theatre, subtly lit by Sibhain Gleany. Sitting on his bed, drinking from his Madonna mug in his Madonna t-shirts, some of which date back to her early tours, Tunks tells his stories of coming out, finding love and loosing it through short vignettes that integrate a lifelong relationship with the singer.

Madonna’s music, insomuch as it resists definition and remains fluid, becomes a metaphor for his search for self, with the obstacles in his life being overcome with a new lyric, teaching or worldview. Tunks breaks up his narratives with the frequent and often jarring inclusion of lyrics by Madonna, which are also projected onto a screen as quotations, serving to illustrate the simultaneous development of his portable musical philosophy.

Tunks explores a spectrum of complex issues and themes: such as homophobia, drug use, mental illness and sexually transmitted diseases. But there is such depth to each story that some asked for elaboration and the text feels over-edited, as if events are missing and key themes glossed over. This results in a sense of detachment between the performer and his tale.

Tunks attempts to fit everything in and frequently skips to the emotional core of the story, which renders rapid emotional shifts that leave his audience lagging behind. Furthermore, as much of the tragedy in the narrative occurs around the performer and not to Tunks himself, we are often asked to feel for characters we know very little about and who are described in a very short period of time.

Nevertheless, his intimate manner and seamless performance, and Fiona Hallenan-Barker’s direction, reveal the delicate heart that lies behind these tales and the show’s rhythm allows some moments to reflect on the tragicomedy of life.

Anne-Marie Peard

Anne-Marie spent many years working with amazing artists at arts festivals all over Australia. She's been a freelance arts writer for the last 10 years and teaches journalism at Monash University.

Anne-Marie Peard

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