Let’s face it, whatever our age or stage, we’re all, in a sense, beginners at life. We don’t graduate from the womb with honours in ‘life sciences’. We’re clean, innocent, unknowing, unworldly slates from the moment we emerge into the piercing light of day.

A remarkable survivor named Alana Ruben Free reminds of this humbling fact from the get-go, in her one-hour, one-woman play, Beginner At Life, which has but one performance to run in Newtown Theatre’s intimate foyer, as well as one at the ubiquitous bastion of Eastern suburban counter-culture, the Bondi ‘Pavlova’.

Free’s focus, in no small measure, is on her self-styled, Jungian recovery from anorexia. But don’t expect a dry, didactic monologue. Expect instead a dynamic, challenging performance from Donna Brooks who shows she has a lot more prowess than All Saints has demanded of her.

Her veil of tears (in deference to this vale of tears) is so true-to-life you’ll want to step up and give her a cuddle.

Expect subtle, esoteric, but easily-grasped philosophical musings. And to find much that’s universal (and not only for those of the female persuasion) in this fiercely, fearlessly and deeply personal exposition.

There’s much that’s Jewish and anorexic about the work, but you don’t have to be Jewish, or anorexic, to derive take-home pay-off. One wouldn’t necessarily expect wrenchingly candid, poetic outpourings from an Ivy league business and Rhodes scholar (finalist), let alone a reserved, backwoods Canadian, but that’s precisely what one gets from this liberating work from Ms Free.

The details: Beginner At Life plays tonight at Newtown Theatre and the Bondi Pavilion on May 9. Proceeds from the $20 tickets go to The Butterfly Foundation for eating disorders.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey