X Factor Auditions Sydney 2013: Joy and Pain

With every reality show come the background stories. For one Sydney X Factor 2013 audition, when it was Ronan’s turn to ask the questions (“What’s your name? Tell us about you”) a young guy with a name remarkably similar to Ronan walks onstage and tells the audience he is a cancer survivor. Everyone reading this will know Ronan’s background and understand why there was an immediate bond between the two, though no one could predict what was about to happen next.

Ronan asks what him music he likes to which the auditionee replies “actually, your music got me through my treatment.” The crowd listens intently to the conversation between the two. Ronan then asks what song he’ll be singing, to which the very sweet and pleasant man replies “actually, it’s your version of ‘I Believe I Can Fly’” Instantly as he says this, I think “Oh my gosh…” as Ronan’s happy, upbeat tone turns quickly to quiet and slightly withdrawn. I’m sure I wasn’t, but sitting there just diagonally across the aisle from Ronan’s chair, I felt like the only person in the room of 2000+ people that knew what that song meant and what could possibly happen in the next few minutes.

The music starts and I feel nervous. The performance is very good but totally heart-wrenching - for the whole song, I watch Ronan’s body language changing, looking down at the desk, not looking around to the other judges or at the cameras and at one point covering his eyes. Danni, sitting next to him, seems simultaneously confused and concerned about what’s going on.

It is so tough to watch - I just want to get up and go over to Ronan. I’m literally on the edge of my seat. Right on the edge. The only thing - well, the many things - stopping me are the fact we’re in a studio with security, the fact I’d be thrown out, oh and Ronan thinking I’m a crazy. Just minor things then.

As the song ends, Ronan walks onto the stage and hugs the auditionee. I stand up to clap as the performance was really good, but quickly realise I am the only one in the audience standing! Normally I would sheepishly sit straight back down again but this time I decided to stay standing, not just for the contestant but to give Ronan support. With a breaking voice he explains the meaning behind the song and just looks so, so sad. The atmosphere is incredibly intense and I try my hardest not to get upset, but it’s like watching a friend struggling just feet away from you without being able to do a thing to help.

When Ronan returns to his seat, he looks like he’s had the wind knocked out of his sails. I try, subtly and somewhat pathetically to smile and gesture some sort of support, but even though he looks my way, it’s highly unlikely he noticed as the audience sits in the dark - a possible blessing in disguise as I have tears down my cheeks at this point.

On the way home that day, I start thinking about what happened and why it was as moving and emotional as it was. I realise that as time has passed, we’ve all gone on the clichéd journey with Ronan through the good and the bad, and it feels almost like he is a friend. Don’t worry, I’m not delusional. I said “almost”. By supporting him not just in music but also X Factor, acting and more, and through the sadder times, it is like we’re watching a personal friend, wanting him to do well and be happy. Things like Twitter make us feel like we’re more involved too. For me personally, maybe meeting Ronan at smaller scale events in Australia has added to this strange sense of knowing him.

So, if we see Ronan as a (very handsome) friend we accompany through joy and pain, does it mean he isn’t the ever-lovely and charming popstar we love, scream, cheer for and sing along to onstage? Unlikely…!

(Audition due to go to air on X Factor Australia, Tuesday 30th July in Australia)