Matthew Mitcham scores well on a totally new and different platform

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It was impressive enough seeing Matthew Mitcham – more renowned as an Olympic diver than a performing artist – on stage on Saturday night, singing, twisting and turning. But to learn that the show I had just witnessed was Mitcham’s first ever full festival performance was mind-blowing (albeit, he had dabbled in club theatre in Sydney prior).

Now, if you’re on top of your Aussie Sporting Hero Facts, you’d know that following his win in the 10m platform at the 2008 Olympics, Matthew went on to hard times, battling depression and using recreational drugs to try and overcome this, which in turn only left him in more of a downer state.

Since then he’s pulled himself out of the slump, penned an autobiography (astonishing for a twenty-something to already have done) and is now telling his story-so-far in the form of a musical, warts and all.

While his debut started out with a couple of faux pas (fittingly that the term should be French given he stuffed up a couple of words in the French opening song), the hour and a quarter that followed certainly made up for it.

Matthew went from what looked like several seconds of ‘Ja’mie Doing Her Best To Impress The High-School Principal’ to sounding like an accomplished off-Broadway performer by the time he got stuck into song two. The boy’s voice is actually that good. And he demonstrates fairly good range, too, covering tunes as diverse in vocal demand as Alanis Morrisette’s ‘Perfect’ (a song relative to the demands of coaches, family and Olympic peers) and Ute Lemper’s ‘Under Here’ (which celebrates his few moments of joy under water following those magical dives).

The narrative of ‘Twists & Turns’ is typical in segmentation to most rags-to-riches-to-tragedy-and-back biographies, but where it differs in production is with the presence of Matt’s ‘id’ – as Freud might refer to it – delivered wonderfully by Melbourne cabaret regular, Rhys ‘Spanky’ Morgan.

Morgan’s confidence, stemming from regular theatrical work not only on the east coast but in London, shines through in ‘Twists & Turns’ and while his presence indeed adds to the show’s twists, it doubles as certain support for Mitcham who, as you can imagine, would be an even bigger bundle of nerves on-stage if he’d have to carry out a quarter of his life story on his own in front of hundreds.

I’m giving you a 7.5, Mr Mitcham. Conquer those few nerves, and you could be looking at a 9.5 in two years.

‘Twists & Turns’ is on in the De Parel Spiegeltent at the Perth Cultural Centre until Saturday 8 March.
Tickets are available through www.fringeworld.com.au.