Michelle Brasier is an average bear. Or rather, a woman with bear ears and no pants. (The Australian meaning, not the British.) Or, a musical theatre singer doing a one-woman show about… Nostalgia? Suffering? Herself? Or, simply all of the above.

In the cabaret-style Soho Downstairs, Brasier bares her soul, through a mix of Disney-esque self-written songs on the subjects of fancying Aladdin, condolence lasagne, and being asked if the stool next to her is free. She can sing — oh boy, can she sing! She’s got a great vibe as a self-aware MT brat and doesn’t hold back on letting the annoying and over-dramatic stereotypes of the genre infuse her work.

It’s a wild patchwork performance, with lots of storytelling, a bit of character comedy, songs, and interaction with her partner — who’s playing the guitar with her onstage. There’s a great deal of tender pathos in the exploration of death and grief. She really goes there, and as a character, she is incredibly charismatic — a watchable, fun, and witty point of view. But the bear shtick doesn’t add much, thankfully only opening and closing the set, and conceals with a gesture towards high concept the possibility of a clear theme. If the core of this show could be found and the various stories woven around it, a much greater clarity could emerge.

There’s an interesting thread here about nostalgia and being trapped in a state of naïveté — of wanting to hold onto the simple hopes and joys of a childhood movie. Is it about growing up? Because even childhood movies can have depth. There was something just a little bit surface about it, not for lack of emotion but for lack of a clear direction. The sad bits were genuinely sad — I appreciated the honesty a great deal and it was tender and very personal. But how did it fit into the whole?

What worked most were the bits where she was playing herself as a character. The small-town, pop-soaked, trashy-but-heartfelt, burning-for-more Aussie energy was true, fun, and vibrant. But did it respond to its context of being here in the UK? It felt like this was the same show she’d perform at Adelaide Fringe — the same that would be anywhere. There’s a lack of responsiveness to the crowd that leaves out any room for the live dynamic between a performer and audience to emerge. As a result, some vital intimacy gets lost, and it feels like it never quite gets out of her world to give us something we can fully relate to.

It’s a strange show, as the bits that are great fly — the command of her voice and body are brilliant, and the vocal loops in particular wrap the comedy in a sweet and musically rich experience that’s just lovely. It’s just not quite a whole show — lacking in structure and unsure of which genre it’s sat in. Definitely not average, but not stand out either. I’m left questioning: why the bear?

Rating: 3 out of 5.

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{🎟 AD – PR invite – Tickets were gifted in exchange for an honest review}

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