Setting free from faith

Pawn Again Christian (Annie Lee)

Theatre Republic, La Boite Studio

September 24 – 28

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Given the popularity of Brisbane musical comedy trio The Kransky Sisters (aka Annie Lee, Christine Johnston and Carolyn Johns), it is not surprising to see the near sold-out status of Annie Lee’s first solo show “Pawn Again Christian”. The evocatively named work may be partly autobiographical in its inspiration, but still there is some Kranksy Sisters quirk, including an ukulele number about the omnipresent devil featuring audience congregation chorus sing-a-long.

The show, inspired by Lee’s life growing up in a fundamentalist religion takes us from wacky stories of living in a small Tasmanian religious community, to portrayal of those who live by the manner of faith. It’s an attention-grabbing, intriguing premise and indeed the show is full of promise, even if this is not necessary realised in its first night Brisfest outing.

After a minor false start due to a small technical issue, we are oriented to the personal nature at the centre of the story because “the truth will set you free”. Certainly Lee’s story is interesting and it would have been wonderful to see more of how she went from a strict upbringing of fervent religious practice (bible studies and weekend door-to-door witnessing) as one of the brothers and sisters of Tasmania’s Jehovah’s Witnesses living in a lighthouse in Launceston to becoming the performer she is today instead of just leaving us at the beginning of her new heathen sinner life in Kings Cross.

Instead we are taken into tell of other ideologies through transitions that are sometimes a little uneven and awkward laugher such as in the early shocking story of Lot and his wife, living in Sodom and Gomorrah. Lee’s hesitant and quietly-subdued delivery may suit the show’s confessional nature but, initially at least, there are few performative moments. These instead come when she assumes characters both within her story and in explanation of bigger religious concerns. Although a confronting scene of confession to an Irish priest drags a little longer than is needed, her characterisations are detailed, nuanced and very entertaining.

I wanted to love this show, but although all the ingredients are there, on its initial night at least, things seemed a little undercooked. One can only assume that its components will soon settle into the cohesive theatrical experience that it has the potential to be.