JC Person is no different from your usual idea of a dynamic millennial. In Joel Clapham’s unflinching performance at the centre of Humpty Dumpty Daddy, drawn from his true-life story, he is an intelligent, eloquent 34-year-old with an iPhone and a suave, captivating smile.
His mind, though, is somewhat more sombre. Newly separated from his wife, with three young children, plus the drudgery of a corporate identity, JC has been battling the black grip of mental depression, which, when one considers that his father had taken his own life at 35, is especially poignant.
Written and produced solely by Clapham the play gives us a theatrical version of the inside of JC’s head. We are invited into the cosy space at The Dock in Courthouse Hotel to be intimate witnesses of uncompromising pathos and a candour that startles and disarms.
We hear of (and agree with) the way a story-telling trait and scorching sense of humour seem to have passed down the generations: his balding paternal grandfather, Pop, told 5-year-old JC his hair had, in falling off his head, stuck to his ears and nostrils and chest where they now flourished.
In a calm, lucid tone, JC relates how he was not given the chance to restore with his father an old car that had been promised for his 18th birthday before his father, separated then from his mother, hung himself in the garage. Big and burly at 6ft 3in the older man, despite a mischievous quality, was never able to talk about his feelings or seek attention — something JC resolves not to emulate.
If his dad had taught him what not to do, his mum, on the contrary, has made him (and his two brothers) whom he is today: a good son, father, brother, uncle. Person. This heartfelt recognition is no doubt made more intense by JC’s role as a parent.
With overwhelming tenderness behind piercing eyes JC tells about his pride of being a father to his two sons and daughter, aged 8, 6 and 3, in which the underlying nature of the man comes shining through.
The young man reflects upon the challenges of fatherhood and the influences — positive and negative — parents have on impressionable lives.
It is a charming yet powerful watch, bravely and brilliantly delivered in an hour for the Melbourne Fringe Festival. Woven through this very personal tale, too, are some deliciously memorable lines: recollecting the bubble-gum he and his brothers had given to their Pop they later found on his bed after he passed away, JC observes that even after somebody dies there exists physical and tangible evidence they keep on living by way of memory through those evidence.
Towards the end, one becomes acutely aware of the potential for history to repeat itself; after all, JC’s father was a single man when he suicided, probably suffered from mental health issues, had 3 kids, was also in his mid-30s.
Only, we have implicit faith in JC.
Men hide their emotions; they think them a weakness. But Clapham clearly knows that the showing of emotions is a strength. To do what he has done is a demonstration of incredible strength, incredible even for a woman.
Humpty Dumpty Daddy is a fine work every man ought to see and every woman will appreciate.