Theatre Works is having a Psycho Beach Party!

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By: Kelly McConville

Midsumma – Victoria’s premiere festival celebrating GLBTIQ culture (one of the top five in world, no less) is upon us! The season launched on Sunday with the Midsumma Carnival, where around 100,000 people of all shapes, ages, sexual and gender orientation came together on Birrarung Marr to celebrate diversity. The day featured merry festival-goers greeting each other with hugs and shouts of ‘Happy Gay Day!’ As well as performances by queer-culture-celebs such as Geraldine Hickey, Joel Creasey and a special presentation of Theatre Works’ opening offering of the festival, Psycho Beach Party. A Midsumma premier event now showing at Theatre Works until the 19th january, is the focus of my gushfest – I mean… review.

Now, let me start by saying I’m somewhat of a simple gal. I like it when something does what it says it’s going to do on the box. Woe-betide if it doesn’t… but if it does, I’m one happy little lady. If it gives me something a little extra, I’m as happy as a young lesbian at a Ruby Rose gig! So when the blurb in the festival guide promised this play to be “The perfect bipolar summertime party in St Kilda!” I went expecting something a little different, probably a little kooky and definitely a whole lot of fun. Boy, did this performance deliver far more than that.

Without going into too much detail, Charles Busch’s story follows a 16-year-old aspiring surfer with multiple personality disorder. Add to the mix some homoerotic surfer dudes, a B-grade horror movie star, a Joan Crawford-esque mother, a manipulative bimbo and a Nietszche fan-girl friend, and you’ve got yourself the makings of one helluva fun ride.

Now, I’ve got to say, this play could easily be way too camp to handle. The fact it is part of the Midsumma Festival could perhaps make a less informed audience member even more wary it would cater only to those who enjoy a Boylesque-filled Friday night. With the script safely in the hands of Director Stephen Nicolazzo, the result is a play that hits every mark spot on. Where he could have focused even more on the homoerotic nature of 60s surf culture, or the gender-bending central character, he instead focuses on what the play set out to do – entertain and have a whole lot of fun. The result is a hilarious play with great characters that delivers just enough tongue-in-cheek choreographed dance-breaks to ensure the audience remembers this is all just meant to be a romping good time – and it is.

Every element of this play is attended to within an inch of its life and I mean this in a good way. The set and sound designs provide the perfect accompaniment to some incredibly energetic performances. Leopard print and glitter slash curtains provide a camp yet sleek set, while manic 60s surf rock music and sound effects punctuate the performance perfectly. The incorporation of steering wheel heat reflectors into the choreography was a moment of sheer brilliance!

The cast delivers flawless performances and not one actor on that stage could be faulted on their commitment and energy. If I had to select only two performers to highlight, they would have to be Ash Flanders as Chicklet and Genevieve Giuffre as Berdine. Ash Flanders is a genius. There, I said it. His delivery of an insecure 16-year old and her multiple personalities is confident, assured and an absolute riot. Giuffre embodies the character of Chicklet’s nerdy best friend with every ounce of her being and is so very, very funny. I had to be conscious of exactly how hard and loudly I was laughing at all times. Gushing over these two aside, the whole cast is phenomenal and not one moment of potential hilarity is missed.

Ultimately, this play does everything it says it’s going to and a truckload more. The shrieks of laughter from the rest of the audience suggests I’m not the only one who was more than satisfied by this gem of a performance. If this is a sign of what’s to come in the 25th Midsumma Festival, or at Theatre Works in 2013, then we’re in for a good year.

Psycho Beach Party: 11th – 19th January, 7:30pm @ Theatre Works, 14 Acland st, St Kilda. Bookings: 03 9534 3388 or www.theatreworks.org.au

Check out what else is on during Midsumma Festival at www.midsumma.org.au

 

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