Writer and performer Charlie Lewin tells us five minutes into ‘Cockatiel’ that we’re in for some ‘gay shit’ – a hilarious understatement given that we’ve just witnessed an opening dramatic school reenactment prologue and a pop number all about being a drama queen.
Bursting onto the stage at Gilded Balloon Teviot’s Turret, Lewin is gregarious and immediately likeable, throwing out clever, self-referencing wordplay and curveball punchlines. He tells childhood stories of his father and brother and chronicles his upbringing, charting the experience of growing up gay in an Australian, Catholic family. The journey is elevated by the comedy music framework – a series of witty storytelling songs that act as fun, thematic interludes.
Pop culture and queer references are strewn throughout. Some have mass appeal – Queer Eye, Hocus Pocus, Marvel, and reality TV – while others are more niche, although Lewin still earns laughs with quirky observations and exuberant delivery. A skilled actor, he is dramatically flexible, switching modes in and out of stories and maintaining a hyperactive energy throughout.
Coming out stories are nothing new in theatre or stand-up, but ‘Cockatiel’ does more than that. It’s about coming to terms with sexuality, yes, but is also an observation of the juxtaposition between confident self-acceptance and ongoing homophobia, even today. Lewin also touches on generational differences and the anecdotes that return to his father’s attitudes are both amusing and insightful.
Despite a relatively low-key audience at this particular performance, Lewin powers through the set seamlessly and never lets the energy dip. The powerful set succeeds in making us laugh, learn, and marvel at his verve and spark.
‘Cockatiel’ runs until Mon 28 Aug 2023 at Gilded Ballon Teviot – Turret at 21:40