Underbelly - Gritty Poetic Awesomeness

Drama, New Work

Underbelly is by far my favorite show I’ve seen yet at the Fringe (and I’ve seen a lot so far). It’s an unforgettable performance inspired by the hallucinatory semi-biographical story of novelist junkie essayist homosexual wife-shooting literary exterminator and frequent defendant William S. Burroughs.
This play is well written, well-acted and hits all the right notes. “Willy” is pretty well the epitome of a counter-culture, anti-establishment American literary revolutionary, with all of the mostly-amusing anecdotes of drugged debauchery that should entail in a modern era. Underbelly takes a no-holds-barred look at beat poet era icons without treating them like, well, icons. We get a glimpse into his formative years, his life as a writer, his unsubtle and mostly unrestrained craving for pretty young men, his complex (and ultimately lethal) relationship with his wife, the drugs, the drugs, oh god the drugs that made his life both pleasing and unbearable.

How much of the performance is based on the truth is difficult to say, for Burroughs himself would certainly be unsure as to how things really played out – and that’s part of the charm, I guess.

 Don’t think about it too much. Enjoy the beautiful turns of phrase and incredible acting. Experience this. Thinking about what it all means can come later, perhaps with a horse pill washed down with a mickey of vodka.

By Jonathon Narvey