MICF – Jay Wymarra AmaJayus

by | Apr 25, 2024

By Jessica Taurins

AmaJayus is a harrowing retelling of a life unlived for a long, long time. The titular Jay – comedian and drag performer Jay Wymarra – grew up in northern Australia as a queer, Indigenous, deeply depressed person… well, at least the story is happier by the end.

AmaJayus follows Jay’s life through the eyes of an unholy trinity living inside his brain. The priest: a representation of both physical and mental atrocities committed by priests the world over against young, queer, black people. The self-loathing pan-continental inner critic Desire Jones: Jay’s inner darkness who crushes him again and again to prevent him from growing. And the drag queen: Jay’s personal drag alter-ego, but also a personification of his ability to grow and keep his spark alive.

Wymarra is a powerhouse of performance. Inside the intimate room at Trades Hall, the almost full house was utterly entranced by his every move, laughing at all the right moments and joining in during the compelling songs (created in collaboration with composer Tegan Koster, and producer Hairbrain). Wymarra’s voice, untouched by the long run of his show, was intimate yet entrancing, ringing out across the stage uniquely for each of his characters.

The inner critic is the main monster of the show, and their songs are the most intense. The critic is from a time in Wymarra’s life – a long time, it seems – where he pretended frequently to be something he was not. He spent time hiding his queerness, brought low by heavy expectations placed on him from the world around him, culminating in a terrible story of walking into the ocean with the intent to not come back to shore.

Wymarra’s vulnerability shines across the performance space, even though this character’s self-loathing and hatred, and it makes the show feel ever that much more intimate. The critic sings with dark, grungy tones and disgust in their mouth, and yet Wymarra persists, not just as the person on stage before us but the young boy who had to continue to live.

In addition to the drama – and there is a lot of drama – AmaJayus is indeed a comedy. Wymarra toes the line between silly and sexy in a wonderful way, as is pretty typical of skilled drag performers, and his booty-shaking performance of Alannah Myles’ Black Velvet is a wonderful moment after the relentless self-destruction from his critic.

AmaJayus is a fantastically unique show at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival. Part-cabaret, part-musical, part-drama, part-comedy (that’s a lot of parts), there is something for everyone to enjoy. Wymarra has delicately crafted a show that could be taken anywhere on Earth and still mean something to someone; be they First Nations or Indigenous, queer, or anyone else just outside of society.

AmaJayus is darkly funny and thought-provoking in all the best ways. Who are the unholy trinity inside of us? Who drove each part of our life, and what new creature took over when the old times were over? Wymarra’s life was strewn across the stage like a scattered costume, and should perhaps encourage us to think a little more deeply about ourselves and how we interact with others… or just how good we would look in a semi-backless dress.

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