According to Otto

Nicki Alchin
18th Feb 2018

The latest offering from prolific playwright/actor/director/producer (basically a Jack of all trades in the theatre world) Wayne Tunks, According To Otto is currently playing at The Depot Theatre. For those of you that haven’t discovered The Depot, it is well worth visiting. It is a friendly Inner West venue loved by Marrickville locals and outsiders, for all its quirks but more importantly for the strong support it lends to new Australian stories.

Some of my favourite stories are the classic romantic fairy tales such as Pretty Woman. According to Otto can easily be placed in this category with one slight difference, it has a gay spin. As well as the gay romance fantasy theme, Tunks delves into the coming of age and coming out genre spiced with a healthy dose of comedic one liners and feelgood exuberance.

Otto Brooks, a loveable charismatic glass half full hopeful 16 year old, is acted with such conviction and believability by Jasper Musgrave as he “confesses” to the audience all his hopes and dreams for his 16th birthday. It is a confession that spills the beans on his sexuality, his desire to come out to his family and the world when he turns 16, his crush on his male best friend Max Lester (acted with an innocent sweetness and charm by Brendan Paul), the way he feels about his average loving tight knit sometimes boring and annoying family, and his frustrations concerning the school bully.

Otto tells his story by engaging directly with the audience, aided when necessary with the piping up of family members, best friends, his parents’ workmates, teachers and the school bully. It’s a great technique that Tunks has used skilfully. He has allowed us inside the reality and dream fantasy world of a 16 year old boy in 2018 who is navigating all the usual dilemmas and quandaries of a teenager with the added dimension of knowing he is gay and wanting to declare it in an era that is ruled by pop culture. Otto’s chatty monologues are peppered throughout. The audience experiences his active romantic imagination and resulting day dreams first hand. Singing and dancing breaks out when least expected to aid with the painting of Otto’s romantic dreaming that helps him through the boring parts of life (just think of having to listen to yet another work story as told by your father) and the disappointment of not being accepted by a family member, after coming out.

Musgrave and Paul are joined by a strong cast who give authentic performances at every turn. Tunks plays with gusto and good cheer Otto’s supportive, proud father; Jacinta Moses plays with handwringing believability Otto’s anxious and concerned mother; Felicity Burke employs great comedic timing and compassion in her role as Otto’s grandmother; and Tasha O’Brien pulls out every effort to swing convincingly between a caring loving sister and an annoying bratty sister. The brain-challenged school bully, Brady Symons is brought to life by Cooper Mortlock. Other minor characters are played with conviction and skill by Alice Furze and Andrew Wang.

Everyone delivers with ease the faultless free flowing dialogue that Tunks has fine-tuned to perfection to capture the exciting, mundane and disappointing moments in the life of Otto Brooks – a teenager with high aspirations of living life as an openly gay male. The simple stage settings allows for ease of movement between scenes. Each prop adds to the total sum of creating the home, school and work environment for the Brooks family.

Expect lots of laughs and feel good vibes in this coming of age romantic fantasy play as it explores the dreams and motivations of a teenage gay boy at age 16. Perfect for a night out with friends and family. 

According to Otto is playing at Marrickville's Depot Theatre until Saturday February 24th.