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Hillsong Boy - Review by Daniel Conway

Updated: Mar 26

I attended an all-boys Catholic school in Blacktown, which I believe could be the single worst environment for a young person to grow up and realize they are queer. There is so much you have to unlearn and unpack, so much that you have to contextualize and reconstruct as you grow into an adult. It is because of this background that I couldn’t help but deeply connect with Hillsong Boy. An exploration of what it means to exist in an environment that is totally contrary to who you are, while simultaneously being marred with scandal. There are striking similarities between all-boys Catholic schools in Blacktown and mega-churches.

Hillsong Boy is an autobiographical one-man show created by Scott Parker and Felicity Nicol, who also served as director. It is intimate and deeply personal, utilizing sound and multimedia expertly. Parker takes center stage and, in a sense, plays two roles. The first is Scott Parker, a fictionalized version of himself, albeit one that is an amalgamation of true events and events that could easily be true for others in that position. The other role is also Scott Parker, the man. There are many elements where lighting is used extremely well (credit to Ben Brockman) to control tension and tell the story, but the most compelling for me was the use of the house lights to remove the artifice of Scott the construction and introduce us to Scott the man. Whereas the first half of the performance gives a snapshot of the inner turmoil of being in the throes of discovering yourself and the cognitive dissonance that comes with doubting the authority figures in your life; the second is a catharsis. This show felt like a release and as an audience member, it felt like I was being almost invasive for watching. Such is the skill of Parker and Nicol, the balance of humor and tension made the audience thoroughly comfortable, during the thoroughly uncomfortable.

The night I saw Hillsong Boy was also added by the gravity that I was watching a show centered on religious abuse of a queer person on the very day that conversion therapy practices were made illegal in NSW. As I said before, I connected with this production on a personal level and the convergence of these events felt like kismet. Hopefully, we are seeing a change where young queer boys can leave schools, churches, football clubs without having to reconstruct their world. Until that day, thank the gods for art, which allows us to feel less alone and work through it all. Scott Parker's story is moving and enthralling, and Hillsong Boy is a testament to his strength and bravery as a person and as an artist. I give Hillsong Boy 4 conversations with a projector screen out of 5.

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