For South Australian Helpmann Academy grant recipient Josh Belperio, the physical scars incurred during a near-fatal accident are a persistent reminder that life is to be cherished. His show ‘Scarred for Life’ is an homage to humanity’s potential for post-traumatic growth, a powerful rephrasing of the expression “whatever doesn’t kill us makes us stronger”.
Adelaide accompanist and composer Josh Belperio stared down the prospect of prematurely becoming a decomposer after rupturing his spleen in a freak bicycle accident. For Josh, this unexpected dice with death transformed his perspectives on existence, and his prior battles with anxiety. He hopes that by sharing his personal journey, he can help assist others on journeys of their own.
“The way that I approach anxiety these days is I approach it from a place of gratefulness, so I try to be grateful for life, for just living, then that really helps with overcoming anxiety. I want to invite people into my brain essentially and work through this together and come out of this sense of gratefulness for just being alive.”
In his debut cabaret show, Josh will convey his remarkable personal journey by utilising his multi-faceted musical skills. He is almost the Swiss Army Knife of the Adelaide music community, having worked as an accompanist, choral arranger, composer, and now solo cabaret performer. As the possessor of such a prolific and diverse imagination, troubles with anxiety seem inevitable. For Josh, though, it is impossible to choose between his array of passions.
“I love all these different aspects of music; and I have to say that I love each of them equally and I want to develop cabaret, choral work and musical theatre equally.”
Why choose, says Josh, when each endeavour informs the other?
“A piece that I’m working on right now is so classically influenced; it’s essentially a piece of instrumental music which uses all of these classical techniques, so if entirely focused on cabaret, I definitely would not have thought to write this piece.”
“Some songs are written from the perspective of different characters within the story, so there’s a lot of times when the nurse sings and I suppose that’s informed by musical theatre.”
It is an approach successfully adopted by some of his greatest inspirations.
“If you look a lot of my favourite artists, people like Tim Minchin or Lin-Manuel Miranda, they just do everything. I mean Tim Minchin, he acts, he does films, he writes musicals, he does comedy, he just does everything and I would definitely say that makes his work richer.”
‘Scarred for Life’ is appropriately directed by Matthew Briggs from the theatre company Under the Microscope. Matthew is a polymath to rival Josh, dividing his time between running UTM and a PhD in biochemistry. Matthew’s input has been invaluable to Josh.
“When I work alone in my room, writing songs and trying to put together this story; the thing about working so individually and so alone, it’s very easy to lose perspective very quickly. So the great thing about working with Matt, within a few days of coming up with a new song, I’ll play it to him in its infancy and say 'hey Matt, what do you think?'.
“He’s extremely honest about his feedback; at first that was quite confronting and something that I had to really adjust to, but once I adjusted to it, it became incredibly helpful.”