Sylvia Plath has been and will be remembered throughout history. She was able to capture and describe mental health in such a way, that people even now can read through her works and exclaim, “Yes! Yes, that is exactly what is happening in my head.” Jack Lynch’s Confessions from the Bell Jar delves deeply into the work of Sylvia Plath, drawing the connections between the mental health issues that so many individuals experience but fear voicing – and the prolific work of the legendary poet.
To begin with, Lynch sets the scene superbly. The small stage located within the rabbit burrow that is The Butterfly Club, is cosy and intimate – which encourages the feeling that the show itself is just a conversation – that Lynch is genuinely just sharing feelings with everyone individually. The atmosphere is assisted by the help of a live pianist on stage to accompany Lynch as he launches into his first dedicated song to the one and the only, Sylvia Plath.
Despite the somewhat serious nature of the beginning of the show, the tone quickly picks up with Lynch dropping through comedic elements at all moments. The real talent that can be seen here is the way in which he has cleverly structured the show, not allowing the genuinely funny moments to remove the quite serious tone of what it is the show is actually about.
Which brings us to the more memorable moments of the night. Lynch has managed to create content (which is beautifully sung and composed) that is not only inspired by Sylvia Plath but actually elevates it. It allows many who may not have been exposed to Plath (Lynch has a few quotes plucked from her various works that he has based the structure of the show around) before to have a moment of realisation of the depth of her words before bringing his own twist to that moment, elevating an from simply enjoying a show to instead having a moment of relief wash over them as they realise that, “It’s fine – other people have gone through what I have, I’m going to be okay.”
It would be easy to frame a show around mental health as a quick way to engage an audience, Lynch however has clearly not created his performance for that purpose. Instead he chooses to bare his history bravely, talking through his own issues and mental space that have caused him anguish over the years before inviting anyone that may need to talk to join him for a drink after. Or connect with him whenever. The genuine insistence of wanting to help and ensure that others don’t suffer through the same issues was a refreshing change from the usual separation of performer and audience that can occur throughout Fringe Festival.
Jack Lynch’s Confessions from the Bell Jar is a must for any Sylvia Plath fan. Actually, no, it’s a must for anyone that wants to see a genuine, entertaining and heartfelt performance – as the first viewed show of this reviewer’s Fringe Festival, it will be a hard one to top.
Confessions from the Bell Jar is showing from September 9th to September 15th as at part of the 2019 Melbourne Fringe Festival. Tickets can be purchased here.