fringe: my life as a gay bum

In My Life as a Gay Bum, Peter Baecker performing under the pseudonym (or possibly Grindr/hookup app handle) nick42berlin, failed on three different fronts when doing a show about gay sex... he didn't make it funny, titillating or interesting.

I'd thankfully read a few reviews beforehand, so I not only knew what I was getting into, but I'd also made sure to go and see a much better show earlier in the night. But it really says something about a Fringe show when there are only five people in the audience and two of them walk out within the first ten minutes.

The only reason I stuck around was that sense of morbid curiosity to see not only whether or not he could chase off the other two straight folks, but also how bad it was going to get and where the hell he was going with this absolute self-involved train wreck of a show.

I also think that part of the reason Baecker chose to set the show in a literal "dark room" was so that he didn't see the looks of panic, pity or quizzical contempt the audience undoubtedly have on their faces at various points.

The show was supposed to cover "the many strange, funny and weird moments" (strange I'll give you, the other two, not so much) Baecker experienced in "darkrooms, parks, toilets, cars and 100 more places" (and by 100, I'm guessing he means about two, people's houses and sex clubs... in fact cars and toilets really weren't mentioned, at least not that I remember), but what it felt like at a certain point was the three remaining audience members were gratifying Baecker's fetish for talking about his sex life in a public arena and being paid for it. It was like we were part of a very XXX rated version of the TV show My Crazy Obsession, where the obsession in question was talking about all the cock you've sucked. But doing it in a way that isn't going to arouse anyone or make them the least bit interested in your story.

I'm not even sure that this show would work playing to a totally gay audience... more than once I found myself thinking, "yes, and... what's your point, we've all been slutty at one point or another".

This show seems like it was totally devised to first and foremostly pump up Baecker's ego, but other than that to both frighten a straight audience and show them how "dirty" the gays are. I'm not sure why exactly he thought that was a good idea, but it seemed fairly evident, and somewhat telling, given that he spent much more time directing his stories to the presumably straight guy and girl (mostly the girl) on the other side of the room, than to me, the solo male.

Baecker's Austrian origins also works against him... between his occasionally repetitious or unimaginative English vocabulary (I hope he's much more descriptive in his native language) and his accent (I'm sorry, but the Austrian/German accents are amongst the least sexy in Europe, even if the German people specifically are among the kinkiest), it just felt like we were either part of his sex addiction therapy or victims of a bizarre hijacking.

Actually, it felt like exactly what it was... really, really bad performance art, delivered by an uninteresting and unskilled performer.

There was so much potential here, and in the hands of somebody who can actually give the material life, it could have been funny or at the very least interesting, or better yet, touching... Baecker doesn't manage any of those things beyond eliciting the occasional uncomfortable or pitying chuckle.

It also didn't help that he chose to perform in an essentially black room wearing all black clothing, so the only thing you could see were his calves, his face depending on whether he moved into the meagre light (which, if you're going to do a "dark room" cut the light by at least 75% and do it properly) and the microphone power light (why the hell he even needed a microphone I have no idea, the room is small, the audience is close, just speak unplugged, or spring for an headset mike). You're in a "dark room", perform shirtless or in your underwear or in just a towel, or heaven forbid, even perform naked (although in no way did Baecker look anything like the photo he used in the poster) provided you warn the audience beforehand.

And speaking of his microphone, the person I feel sorriest for is his poor sound tech, who presumably has had to sit through this car accident over and over again. Once is definitely more than enough.

It's not the worst Fringe show I've ever seen, but it's definitely close.

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