Performance reviews: The Search and Trevor Ashley: The (First Annual) Farewell Show, Midsumma Festival

At Midsumma Festival this year, Jess McAvoy presents an unforgettable performance in ‘The Search’ and Trevor Ashley revealed the dark sides of reality TV.
Jess McAvoy’s ‘The Search’ performing as part of Midsumma Festival 2024. Photo: Jen Macchiarelli. McAvoy (short blond hair, tattoos covering their arm and wearing a guitar behind their back) looks towards the camera, standing against a back background with soft lights.

The Search

The Search by Jess McAvoy is, simply put, a class act – a 60-minute tour de force that will remain with you for some time. It’s a delight and a rare treat to bear witness to McAvoy’s presence, who is a Brooklyn-based performer originally from Perth.

There’s a purity to The Search, and to McAvoy’s voice, that is rare to come by, and this is something that left a lasting impression with this reviewer.

Dealing with heavy subject matter, including drug addiction and dependency, The Search walks a tightrope between humour and tragedy. McAvoy plays four internal characters, who each shed light on the complexities of their stories as the performance continues.

As McAvoy continues to shift between the characters, the performance also dips and weaves between various musical styles, from rock to acoustic. There is something to be said for the way in which McAvoy commands the audience to join them in song and voice, bringing the audience together in a way that many performances seek, but so rarely achieve.

At moments throughout The Search, McAvoy introduces different elements to the performance, including audio loops that blend seamlessly with the act. The performance makes the most of what is at hand in The Butterfly Club, but also takes it to greater heights with McAvoy’s ability to translate these personal and intimate experiences.

Within 20 minutes of The Search, this reviewer was in tears and, judging by the conversation with a fellow audience member at the tram stop, I wasn’t alone.


The Search by Jess McAvoy performing from 22-27 January at The Butterfly Club as part of Midsumma Festival 2024; tickets.

Trevor Ashley: The (First Annual) Farewell Show

Having witnessed Trevor Ashley’s steady rise to fame since first presenting Liza (on an E!) way back in 2011 for Midsumma Festival, The (First Annual) Farewell Show was a bittersweet goodbye for local audiences, as the bright lights of the West End beckon this juggernaut of the Australian theatre and cabaret scene. 

As a performance, The (First Annual) Farewell Show worked with Ashley’s knock-out vocals and string of torch songs, with the three-piece band bringing the whole composition together. At just under 90 minutes, it was the perfect length. Had a less seasoned or less talented performer been delivering these numbers, however, then a 60-minute performance would have sufficed. As it stands, Ashley held the audience tightly in his grasp, and the love that local audiences have for him was easily understood.

Recently starring on reality television in Queen of the Universe, Ashley offered in this performance an unfiltered view of reality TV and its pitfalls. Indeed, there has been much discussion and media attention on similar artists forking out astronomical amounts in costuming, simply to compete on such shows with no guarantee of making a return – herein lies the “grit” found in this performance. By contrasting his back-of-stage experiences to the glossy performances on screen, Ashley provided the “dark” to the “light”.

Read: Performance reviews: A Bucket of Beetles and White Gold, Sydney Festival

Production wise, the show was sufficient; however, it could have gone so much further in terms of lighting and visual effects.

Like all good performances, this one left its audience wanting more. Ashley is indeed one of our country’s finest performers, and what is our loss is certainly London’s West End’s gain. 


Trevor Ashley: The (First Annual) Farewell Show was performed from 21-22 January at Chapel Off Chapel as part of Midsumma Festival 2024.

This review is published under the Amplify Collective, an initiative supported by The Walkley Foundation and made possible through funding from the Meta Australian News Fund.

Jessi Ryan (they/them) has been creating performance and exhibitions for the past 20 years, both locally, nationally and abroad- in this time collaborating with a huge number of artists from a broad cross section of cultural backgrounds. As a journalist they have written for and been published by some of Australia’s leading arts and news editorial across the last 10 years-and was recognised as a finalist for Globe Community Media Award in 2021. Ryan has also taken photos for a number of print and online publications.