Gold Medalist Matthew Mitcham Dives onto the Cabaret Stage

Matthew Mitcham Image - John McRae
Matthew Mitcham
Image – John McRae

Matthew Mitcham is the golden boy of Australian diving after winning gold in the 10 metre platform event at the 2008 Olympic Games.  Coming from thirty points behind he scored perfect tens in his final dive to snatch the gold from his competitors.

In his latest venture Matthew is hoping to win audiences over at the Perth World Fringe Festival with the world premier of his one man cabaret show Twists and Turns.  So how does one go from diver to cabaret performer?

“I was forced to take 3 months bed rest after developing stress fractures in my lower back in 2010”, explained Mitcham, “so I bought a toy ukulele and taught myself how to play it by watching You Tube videos. After uploading a few of my own videos from the London Olympics in 2012, I started doing small cabaret performances in Sydney’s Slide Lounge.  After seeing one of my performances, the producers of the Melbourne Cabaret Festival asked if I’d like their help to turn my book, Twists and Turns, into a stage show.”

In his cabaret version of Twists and Turns Mitcham reveals a life of low self esteem, depression, panic attacks and repeated self harm, which finally lead to drug abuse. So why share such a dark time in his life?  “My philosophy has always been: if the potential benefit to others outweighs the potential detriment to myself, it’s worth sharing. And the feedback I get from people after having read my book is so encouraging that when the opportunity … [to turn the book into a cabaret show] … presented itself, I jumped at it!”

Low self esteem, depression, panic attacks, repeated self harm and drug abuse – not the easiest of topics with which to create an amusing and entertaining cabaret show!  However Mitcham assures me this show is going to be “F.U.N! From the very beginning I stipulated to all involved that I was only going to do this show if it was going to be fun. Because, really, who the hell wants to see a show that’s boring and depressing? Of course we talk about depression and addiction, but there have been some incredible, intense highs that the show just could not be without. It’s song woven through narrative, peppered with a little bit of acrobatics.”

Having dealt with his demons Mitcham hopes to not only entertain with his show but also, by sharing his experiences with others, break some of the taboos that surround depression and addiction.  As he explains,  “one of the reasons I speak so openly about my depression and addiction is that I feel like I suffered unnecessarily for much longer than I needed to because I was too ashamed about what I was going through to reach out to anyone. I hope talking about my experiences makes it easier for other people to share what’s going on for them … I’ve become a firm believer of the old adage, “a problem shared is a problem halved.”

While experiencing his early years of ups and downs, Mitcham quit diving in 2007 and ran away to become a diver in a show at the Sydney Royal Easter Show.  “Elite divers tend to thumb their noses at clown diving, it’s considered to be for those who ‘couldn’t make it’. I quit diving for a year in 2007 and ended up taking a job at the Sydney Royal Easter Show … as part of the AquaWorld Show. I was so broke that I was living off two-minute noodles and baked beans, scrounging under sofa cushions and car seats to pay for train fares there and back. I was so grateful for that job that I didn’t even mind donning the bumblebee outfit (with cape) and throwing out cheesy one-liners like, “to all you honeys out there, I’m your Superbee.”

Mitcham’s sense of humor is evident as I ask if he has any rituals before diving or performing. “Just before I’m about to go on, I scull a bottle of sarsaparilla and jump up and down until I burp,” he replies, quickly adding, “Kidding… I don’t have any rituals.”

Despite the success of his cabaret show, Mitcham still has his sights on more diving gold. He has his sights firmly fixed on this year’s Commonwealth Games and the 2016 Olympics in Rio.  “I train early morning and mid-afternoon, so I have a five hour window during the day where I’ve been doing script or vocal rehearsals, and then we do full run-throughs on weekends. My diving coach has arranged training in every city I’ll be visiting, and luckily there haven’t been any clashes between competitions and show dates this year. “

Since his Olympic Gold win he has often been described by the media as one of the few Olympians to compete as an openly gay man.  When asked how he would you like the media to describe him in 10 years he quickly responds, “one of the few Olympians to go on to become ridiculously rich, successful and better-looking.”

And what about the world of entertainment?  Says Mitcham, “I want to be the next Stephen Fry, who can’t help but be awesome at everything.”

Twists and Turns

Saturday 1 February – Saturday 8 February 2014

Perth Fringe World Festival

De Parel Spiegltent

Urban Orchard, Perth Cultural Centre

Tickets $27.00 – $35.00 available through

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