For anyone into documentaries on strange and obscure subcultures, Louis Theroux would have undoubtedly been a major staple of their viewing habits over the past fifteen years. In fact, twenty-five years after beginning his documentary making career, Louis opens his show in a packed-to-the-rafters Adelaide Convention Centre confessing that even all these years later, at the age of 49, he is “still making a fool of himself” as he simultaneously airs footage of himself writhing in ecstasy, eating fruit… whilst half-naked in a room full of people.
Without Limits sees Louis, on his second tour of Australia, team up with Julia Zemiro for the evening, as they recount and discuss some of the most memorable highlights of Louis documentary-making career. Louis Theroux is best known to Australian audiences for his Weird Weekends series. This series forms the basis for the first half of the show which saw Louis immerse himself into the lifestyle of porn stars, doomsday survivalists and even professional wrestling. Not to be a stick in the mud, Louis recounts jumping in feet first to each of these scenarios (and more) stating that he has no concerns in relation to being embarrassed as it is “a feeling felt by everyone else in the room”.
It wasn’t all light hearted either. In his all-to-familiar awkward but eloquent manner, Louis also asked the hard questions with the audience made to think long and deep in relation to topics such as adoption, the church of Scientology and white supremacy. At times Louis admits to “winding up” his subjects. After all, what could possibly go wrong when a family of Nazi’s fill their shopping trolley with liquor?
Following a brief interval the show resumed with Louis becoming mobile talk show host, roaming the audience on the lookout for people with jobs more boring than his (i.e. everyone), super fans and lookalikes in an instantaneous game of “Where’s Waldo?”. Where else but Adelaide, “the city of Churches”, would the only Louis Theroux lookalike in the room be a vicar?
One particular question posed during the Q&A temporarily high jacked the show, obviously hitting a point of interest in Louis, as he described modern day media and journalism being “heirloom and legacy outlets in an era of fake news”. But he did premise this argument by saying it was not necessarily a bad thing.
The final stanza of the show is based on Louis’ best known documentary The Most Hated Family in America or as we know them, The Westboro Baptist Church. It is at this point of the show that an ex-Westboro member, Megan Phelps Roper, graces the stage having “escaped” from the ministry in recent years. Although describing Louis as a “demon possessed messenger of Satan”, the ministry (which is famous for picketing funerals and extreme homosexuality beliefs) has invited Louis back three times over the years.
Maybe that is the key to Louis’ success? The ability to disagree with, mentally challenge, but still like the guy. The proof of this seems to be in the fact that throughout his career he has still kept in touch with many of his subjects, half a dozen of which make appearances in the show.
Louis Theroux has made a career out of chasing, documenting and trying to understand the weird, the wacky and the wild. The full house hanging on every word for two and a half hours obviously see merit in his ways as the closing monologue puts it best and puts it simply – “there is no escaping from the weirdness of the human condition. We’re complicated”.
Live Review By Lindsay Bulach