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Review: #FirstWorldWhiteGirls Spirit Animal

The Brisbane Comedy Festival is certainly not going out with a whimper, with a final week program that includes Judy Hainsworth’s #FirstWorldWhiteGirls: Spirit Animal—a parody of the narcissistic Instagram-able world, featuring two self-obsessed rich white girls. BFF’s Tiffany (Judy Hainsworth) and Maddison (Kyra Thompson) share some legit first world probs—from the heartbreak of Harry marrying Meagan (“I didn’t love him; I just wanted to be a Princess”) to the challenge of creating the perfect flat lay (that’s an Instagram board of your fave items for sale, photographed from above, for those who don’t know).  

 
Picture (L to R): Tiffany (Judy Hainsworth) and Maddison (Kyra Thompson). Picture credit: Geoff Lawrence, Creative Futures Photography

Picture (L to R): Tiffany (Judy Hainsworth) and Maddison (Kyra Thompson). Picture credit: Geoff Lawrence, Creative Futures Photography

 

Occasionally “cray,” Spirit Animal is a fascinating review of everything the self-obsessed millennial is likely to care about: the right outfit, the must-have operation, the latest on-trend food to eat (or avoid), and the newest mindfulness and meditation trends… as well as the ongoing demands of Instagram-ing, blogging and YouTube-ing the lot. All interwoven with a darker #MeToo undercurrent, and references to the mental health impacts of trying to live the perfect life in a far-from-perfect world.

The tightly-written 60-minute show (written by Judy Hainsworth, and directed by Lewis Jones) centres on a number of original pieces—with Disney Princess-style songs (albeit with very ‘contemporary’ lyrics) as well as sprinklings of grunge and rap. Highlights included the crowd-pleasing “I’m better than you,” and the ‘flat lay’ song. Thompson is an excellent foil to Hainsworth’s Tiffany, and the show provides each performer with solos as well as providing some close harmony. I last saw Judy Hainsworth’s work in the fabulous Happily Ever After, and Hainsworth’s versatility and harmonies were also on show in Spirit Animal (both shows under the Musical Direction of Luke Volker).

Some of the older members of the audience might have needed an urban dictionary, but I think they got the message (David even stepped bravely on the stage to learn more about creating the perfect flat lay—one of the highlights of the Tuesday night show).

 
Picture: Drawing on the “7% Indian” in  #FirstWorldWhiteGirls Spirit Animal  (Judy Hainsworth) Picture credit: Geoff Lawrence, Creative Futures Photography.

Picture: Drawing on the “7% Indian” in #FirstWorldWhiteGirls Spirit Animal (Judy Hainsworth) Picture credit: Geoff Lawrence, Creative Futures Photography.

 

I have a feeling that the show would be better-suited to a later evening slot, as the audience energy seemed to drop a little in the second-half of the opening night of this run. #FirstWorldWhiteGirls Spirit Animal is a closely-observed satire that may occasionally step close to the line between humour and offensiveness (such as the “Little Black Babies” song?). But then, that is when satire is working well: constructively criticising, and drawing attention to  issues across society.  Go along and see what you think.

Verdict: Def one for millennials/Gen WE everywhere.

 
Picture: Kyra Thompson. Picture credit: Geoff Lawrence, Creative Futures Photography.

Picture: Kyra Thompson. Picture credit: Geoff Lawrence, Creative Futures Photography.

 

Audience tip: 60 minutes, Brisbane Powerhouse Rooftop Terrace (15+. Sexual references, coarse language, drug references and adult themes). There are six performances of #FirstWorldWhiteGirls Spirit Animal in the 2019 Brisbane Comedy Festival program (6:45pm, 19-23 March—and 5:45pm on 24 March). Tickets $20-$29 ($20 on 19 March, $25 on 20/21/24, & $29 on 22 & 23 March) plus $6.60 transaction fee. Why not keep an eye on the Powerhouse website, and see what else might tempt you (2019 Brisbane Comedy Festival: 22 February-24 March).

Catherine Lawrence

The reviewer attended the Tuesday 19 March 2019 performance (6:45pm).

Pictures Credit: Creative Futures Photography.

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Review. Mother’s Ruin: A Cabaret About Gin

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Review. Mother’s Ruin: A Cabaret About Gin

Mother’s Ruin: A Cabaret About Gin is a great evening: three expert cabaret performers who re-frame the history of gin through a feminist perspective. A love story about the beverage of choice, enhanced with fantastic harmonies, and great humour by chanteuses Maeve Marsden and Libby Wood—with superb musical direction and performance by Jeremy Brennan. What’s not to love?  

Pictured (L to R): Maeve Marsden and Libby Wood.  Picture credit: Creative Futures Photography.

Pictured (L to R): Maeve Marsden and Libby Wood. Picture credit: Creative Futures Photography.

Pictured: Jeremy Brennan.  Picture credit: Creative Futures Photography.

Pictured: Jeremy Brennan. Picture credit: Creative Futures Photography.

Elly Baxter (writer/researcher—aka The Ginstress), and the performers, clearly know everything there is to know about gin. By the end of the 60-minute show we walked out feeling a little thirsty…but also better informed about some of the politics behind our favourite beverage. The Show has been running for three years, following a first outing in 2016. I am not surprised it continues to attract rave reviews around the world. It’s slick, informative, and professional—and yet is funny and feels fresh. For example, it was lovely to hear the occasional local mention—particularly the ‘Drinks for Women” reference to Merle Thornton and Rosalie Bognor’s 1965 Regatta Hotel Bar protest.

Everyone will have their highlights from the evening. For me, Wood’s version of Sia’s Chandelier—definitely hitting all the right notes. But Marsden’s performance of Lionel Bart’s Oom Pah Pah also left a lasting impression on at least one of our group...

Pictured: Maeve Marsden.  Picture credit: Creative Futures Photography.

Pictured: Maeve Marsden. Picture credit: Creative Futures Photography.

 
Pictured: Libby Wood.  Picture credit: Creative Futures Photography.

Pictured: Libby Wood. Picture credit: Creative Futures Photography.

Be assured this will be one of my picks from the 2018 Brisbane Festival—and we are only at the start of Festival Director David Bertold’s ‘Act 2.’ Last night was meant to be my night off from reviewing. But Mother’s Ruin: A Cabaret About Gin deserves to sell out the rest of this Brisbane run. Book now!

Verdict: Unmissable. Definitely one of my picks of the 2018 Brisbane Festival.   

Audience tip: The La Boite Roundhouse is a great venue for the show, with good views from any seat—but the ‘floor’ and the first row of the raised seating are probably the best. Mother’s Ruin: A Cabaret About Gin has a six-show season at the 2018 Brisbane Festival, so buy your tickets now ($34-$37). 18th-21st September (7:30pm), plus two shows on 22nd September (6:45pm & 9:15pm). Production suggests 18+ (adult themes, coarse language, and alcohol references) & a smoke machine is used throughout. For more information on other Brisbane Festival events, check out the Brisbane Festival website. 

Catherine Lawrence, perspectives

The reviewer attended the Tuesday 18th September 2018 performance (7:30pm).

All pictures credit: Creative Futures Photography.

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Review: There’s Something About Mary(s)

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Review: There’s Something About Mary(s)

The title of the show co-created by Cassie George (writer and performer) and Michael Mandalios (co-creator) references the 1998 film which launched the career of Cameron Diaz. Something about Mary is a film about men vying for Mary’s (Diaz’s) attention. There’s Something About Mary(s) looks at the theme from a different angle: reflecting on hunting for the man of your dreams, and the relationship with friends George describes as a “gaggle of gays” (‘Marys’).[1]  We follow George's journey from a demure Church-going start, to the wider horizons of University life and dating.  Embarking on a Bachelor of Musical Theatre, George quickly discovers that she has much in common with her fellow students: they love performing, and are all looking for the “men of their dreams.” But, as the publicity states, “Every day, she met the men of her dreams. Unfortunately, so did they!”

During the 60-minute show, George runs through some of the many highlights—and low points—of trying to find the right guy, each introduced as differently numbered ‘acts’ (look forward to “Act 21, Taylor the Latte Boy,” and “Act 28, Priscilla”). The show is peppered with almost as many songs as there are tales of dates, and a wide variety of musical genres: from 70s/80s/90s power ballads through to rap. Outing herself as a “fag hag” (or, more specifically, acknowledging she “sashayed [her] way the top of the ladder” as “top fag hag”), George recognises the challenge of balancing her love-life with love of her friends. She concludes that having a wide circle of gay male friends has a number of advantages: shared interests (men and music), and a ready pool of supporters for sleepovers and gossip. 

The Show has the almost obligatory audience participation number (beautifully handled—to the delight of the friends of the chosen spectator), and many entertaining asides (particularly as “Mum” was in the audience that night). Some great one-liners, delivered with excellent comic timing—many of which were close observations, causing the audience to laugh with a knowing nod (for example, “when you date the hag, you date the gays”).

Musical Director, Luke Volker was excellent, and is clearly making a name for himself as a foil for one-woman cabaret performers (I first saw Volker when performing with Bethan Ellsmore in the superb Bethan Ellsmore is… Queen of the Night). Volker is a talented musician, with the bonus of contributing excellent comic timing when delivering  wry asides or observations. But it would have been good to see a third performer. Perhaps a future development of the show might bring the co-creator, Mandalios, on stage (after all, George described him as the “Will’ to her ‘Grace’)—and perhaps also partner the production with another one-hour cabaret to produce an entertaining double-bill.

George demonstrates a mastery of the musicals genre, and of the 70s-90s powerhouse ballads, in this confident performance. Many of the choices sat well for her voice, with “Don’t have to be rich/Kiss” as one of several highlights. Personally, I would like to have heard a little more of the reflective or quieter tunes—or even a different take on some of the songs which were belted out. For example, I would love to have heard George’s version of “Do you believe in life after love” as a more reflective performance; perhaps a chance to illustrate how she still seeks to address the challenge of balancing a love life with keeping her friends.

Studio 188 is a great venue, and it will be interesting to see how the show transfers to the Turbine Studio at the Powerhouse. Go along and see it for yourself. As the show is part of the Wonderland Festival, this is the perfect chance to create your own two- or three-act show, combining There is Something About Mary(s) with one or more of the other 60-minute events included in the festival program.

 Catherine Lawrence

The reviewer attended There’s Something About Mary(s) at the Studio 188, Ipswich, on Saturday, 18th November 2017, 7:00pm. The Show is part of the Wonderland Festival at the Brisbane Powerhouse, 23rd-27th November 2017 (7:30pm [6:30pm on Sunday only]). Tickets $27-$32.95 (adult, $27 plus transaction fee of $5.95). 60 minutes.

 

Note[1]: Having heard of a ‘Friend of Dorothy’—after all, what’s not to love about the Wizard of Oz—I must confess I hadn’t come across the slang use for ‘Mary.’ But as Wikipedia lists over 80 different slang terms for gay men, I’m not surprised I’d missed many of them.  

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