Review: The Gospel According to Matthew

Yeah, that happened…

Written and performed by Matthew Semple, directed by Simon Mason, and presented by Heaven of Invention in partnership with Brisbane Powerhouse, The Gospel According to Matthew is a politically incorrect one-man comedy/cabaret performance.

Originally devised as a 10-minute piece for 2016’s Short+Sweet Cabaret, where it won awards for Best Director and Best Original Score, Semple has re-worked his script into a 1-hour treat.  Integrating stand-up comedy with cabaret/musical theatre, the set reflects this with a keyboard and mic one side, and a tall chair and bottled water on the other.  The Graffiti Room is intimate, even sitting in the back row felt very close, and although he occasionally seemed slightly nervous, I believe that is also part of his charm.  Nothing is more unsettling than a slightly shy young guy with the face of an altar boy, openly satirising religion, politics, love, vegetarianism, and himself with irreverent abandon.  

Cleverly, it’s structured like the Bible’s Gospel According to Matthew; which has a narrative segment in each section dispersed by dialogue and brief sermons telling us about Jesus’s actions.  Here, the songs are the narrative and the sermons are funny expressive stories that preach the worldview of Matthew Semple.

I was unable to understand the beginning banter between Semple and “God” (the recorded voiceover had too much echo and reverb) which was a shame, as I believe it would have assisted the pay-off impact of the ending.  However, the first hilarious song showed us a Musical Theatre program graduate ready to take full control of his career.  Taking the mickey out of the structure of musical theatre numbers, he sang that this was as good as the show was going to get and it was downhill after that.   Not to worry, it didn’t.

Love song from Nauru (Thanks Peter) was one of the night’s favourites that lyrically left the audience no doubts as to whom he was singing about; if the title hadn’t already given it away.  “Thanks Peter, you’ve really helped us along, and taught us that self-immolation is wrong.   Thanks Peter, you’re such a family man because detaining little children, is just part of “the plan”.  Funny, scathing, and terribly sad at the same time.  He’s made a clip for it which you can watch here

Although only an hour, the show rapidly moves along.  Semple showed confidence behind his keyboard and was in his element, but experience will bring the same to his banter and I can’t wait to see the same confidence and honesty blend into the personal stories he shares.  His humour is accessible too, there are one-liners, Dad jokes, and high-brow, something for everyone.  

Closing with a rap, yes… a RAP complete with backward baseball cap, showed his versatility.  Rap isn’t an easy feat for those classically trained, but he smashed it out surprising his audience.  Just when we thought were going off into the night in fits of laughter, Semple left us with a poignant message about our own gospel, our own truth.  That, like him, we should find the “’thing’” that passionately gives us strength and ultimately makes us feel happy.  When we do, whether musical theatre like him, or anything else in this world, find it.  Then grab it by both hands, live it, decide what is right within the constructs of your own values and what is not, and THAT will be your own personal gospel.

Thanks for an hour of your time Matthew.  I’m looking forward to what you do next!

By Lisa Bingham