Even at his most raw, Osher remains a very polished performer.
Osher Günsberg is famous around the country for his placid face and soft voice as he informs a contestant on a dating show that they haven’t received a rose, and it’s time to say their goodbyes. Anyone who has been keeping an eye either on the tabloid media or on the mental health space will know there’s much, much more to Osher than his reality TV career belies.
This is primarily a one-man show, with Osher reciting landmark incidents in his life as part of the tour for his book, 'Back, After The Break'. The title refers to his much-publicised psychotic break, when he thought a climate change induced catastrophe would swallow up Venice Beach that day, and that he was the only one who knew it was going to happen. He has always suffered from powerful anxiety, and on stage is the only time, he says, that his mind quietens. This goes a long way to explaining certain elements of the show.
Osher recalls horrific incidents on stage, largely with a massive cheesy grin plastered onto his face. He is very self-aware. After telling a few stories from his childhood, he tells the audience that he can’t talk about the next episode, so he’ll sing it instead. He sings about many people’s worst nightmare, turning it into an upbeat little ditty as he grins out into the crowd. But he knows at the end we don’t know if we should applaud, and he turns our hesitation into a joke, which breaks the tension.
The show is very well balanced. Quite emotionally draining stories are interspersed with songs, and while Osher is no Grammy award-winner, he and his accompanying musician are very engaging. At times, he projects photos from his past, and there’s a real connection with the Brisbane audience as we hear the rags-to-riches-to-a-spiral-of-doom-and-back-to-riches-again story of one of our own. He also had some special celebrity guests to help him tell one story, and the affection between them was really touching. His family was also in the audience, which attested to not only the sincerity of his soul-bearing, but also the love that surrounds him.
The only potential drawbacks were that he read from teleprompters for the whole show, and it was sometimes pretty distracting. This is entirely forgivable though given the subject matter. The only other disjointed aspect was how polished it was; how much of a performance. Given the emotional heft, the show could have been more scaled back, intimate and conversational in tone. While Osher did have good banter with the audience, the professionalism and show-biz sparkle of the show could be a little jarring when discussing molestation, alcoholism and suicidal thoughts. But perhaps that was the point, to show the dichotomy of his life, or to give the show a manic edge as an insight into his occasional mindset. Or maybe amping up the 'performer' makes him feel good, and quietens the voices for a while.
Osher is a brave man, and this show makes you want to crush all the tabloids that have ever made fun of something as silly as his (medication-induced) weight. This was a surprising show that only promotes empathy and understanding for those who are going through tough psychological times, and who maybe hope they can make it through like the guy from 'The Bachelor'/'The Bachelorette'.