Tag: Midsumma Festival

Review: Daddy

A candy coated concoction

By Bradley Storer

At the opening of Daddy last night, the audience entering the performance space were greeted with the sight of Wiradjuri artist Joel Bray, clad only into a pair fluorescent pink hot pants, reclining artfully on a fluffy cloud of fairy floss. This cheeky image slowly morphed through poses of contorted classical imagery alongside grotesque parodies of childish innocence, signalling the wide range of expression Bray would traverse in the next hour.

Mixing fairy tale, contemporary dance, and stylised but emotionally direct text, Daddy is a moving examination of existence at the intersections of queerness and blackness in modern Australia. The continual imagery of a hole needing to be filled operates on multiple levels – an empty stomach hungering for nourishment, an orifice looking for sexual fulfilment, the empty space left by an absent parent, as well as the pulsating wound at the heart of a people ripped apart by colonisation.

Bray is a charming and warm presence throughout, gracefully guiding the audience through tales of his own family and lived experience as a white-presenting Wiradjuri man. His un-amplified voice carries impressively in the intimate space of the State Theatre Rehearsal Room, and he ably manoeuvres audience members through several configurations throughout the room (audience participation is a large part of the performance, but in an entirely voluntary capacity). Bray’s lithe form and skilful dancing are utilised to both hilarious and chilling effect, whether peacocking in the confines of a gay club or contorting in convulsions of loss and pain.

Bray’s generosity of spirit nevertheless refuses to excuse the complicity of modern Australia in the decimation and erasure of Indigenous culture. The molten tirade he unleashes at the climax of the piece stings with cutting truth, particularly in light of continuing Aboriginal deaths in custody, shortened life expectancy and the overrepresentation of Indigenous people in prison populations.

Sitting in a space combining dance, theatre and storytelling, Daddy is absolutely delightful – a candy coated concoction disguising bitter truths, and whipped cream concealing the deep wounds of colonialism. An absolute must-see for this year’s Midsumma festival!

Venue: Arts Centre Melbourne, 100 St Kilda Rd

Dates: 4 – 8 February

Time: 8pm Tuesday – Saturday, 2pm Saturday

Prices: $30 – $35

Bookings: artscentremelbourne.com.au, 1300 182 183, tickets@artscentremelbourne.com.au or at the box office.

Photography by Bryony Jackson

Review: The Campaign

One fraction of Australia’s shameful legacy

By Owen James

The 80’s and 90’s were tumultuous times for the LGBTQI community worldwide, as social movements fighting for equality came to a head for many Western countries. The Campaign focuses on the activism efforts of the Tasmanian Gay Law Reform Group to extinguish the particularly nocuous laws prevalent in Tasmania – criminalising gay sexual activity between consenting adults with a potential sentence of 21 years imprisonment (much higher than the prison term for rape or armed robbery).

This piece of verbatim theatre plays out like a gripping documentary, keeping us riveted throughout as its two-decade historical journey is condensed into a neat and expeditious ninety minutes. Detailed direction by Peter Blackburn succeeds in bringing the many layers of Campion Decent’s text to realistic but theatricalised life, highlighting the joy in each small victory along the way. Blackburn makes the most of the small studio space at Gasworks, utilising intricate lighting and use of simple but effective props and set pieces to keep us engaged and connected to the story throughout. Occasional musical moments act as effective punctuation and give the storytelling a boost at crucial moments.

Emotionally-charged performances from the cast of five ground the theatricalisation of these terrifying events that took place. Their collective depictions of their dozens of real-world counterparts are often highly realistic, creating many moving and rightfully upsetting moments. This focused and balanced ensemble are lead by a sensitive and natural performance from Patrick Livesey as Rodney Croome, who remains brave and loyal across the decades. He is one to watch. The four other extremely strong performances come from Claire Sara, Ally Fowler, Ben Stuart, and Ben Noble (who has the most fun as various politicians and left-wing extremist caricatures).

Don’t miss this compelling and fascinating history lesson of our country’s shameful recent draconian past (arguably in part also a disturbing reflection on the recent campaign for marriage equality), with a heartwarming triumph above adversity that hits close to home.

This important entry for Midsumma runs until 1st February at Gasworks.
Tickets: https://www.midsumma.org.au/whats-on/events/the-campaign/

Image courtesy of Gasworks



Review: This Bitter Earth

A triumph display of different voices singing the same tune.

By Sebastian Purcell

This Bitter Earth looks to provide an inside running track on the lives of six 20 somethings through powerful stories and interactions. This Bitter Earth is thoughtful; touching on themes of loneliness, lust, love, unrequited love, complicated relationships and friendship, exploring what it means to be gay in this modern world.

Writer Chris Edwards presents a smart, dark, sexy, sometimes rambling and neurotic show, yet it’s importantly grounded in heart-felt, self-discovery moments. There is a litany of pop references from Meryl Streep’s performance in The Deer Hunter to the iconic soundtrack of Titanic, My Heart Will Go On, allowing multiple generations to relate.

A simplistic, yet elegant lighting design by Phoebe Pilcher comes alive in the club and hostel scenes and works wonderfully with Grace Deacon’s sparse set design allowing the direction of Riley Spardaro to shine. Spardaro’s and Deacon’s staging and blocking combination creates an intimacy which allows the cast to deliver fresh, razor sharp and authentic performances.

Michael Cameron, Elle Mickel, Matthew Predny, Ariadne Scouros, Sasha Simon and Alexander Stylianou deliver engaging and believable performances and project clearly without amplification to a packed house. The dramatic to vulgar, to savage to poignant, are interjected sparingly with deadpan humour delivering the core message – that we are the sum of all our parts and not just our sexuality.

Most impressive is the final scene, a repeat from the opening monologue, but delivered collectively by the entire cast. This gives the effect of the many voices being internalised and at the same time that there will always be someone else who has had a similar experience to share.

This is a terrific opening act for Theatre Works in its 40th year. A must see for any LGBTIQ + or ally.

Appropriate for mature audiences, alcohol, sex, and drug references.

This Bitter Earth, part of Melbourne’s Midsumma Festival.  January 19 to February 02 at the Theatre Works, St Kilda. Tickets available theatreworks.org.au

Photography by Matthew Predny


One man’s trash is Eurovision treasure

By Narelle Wood

Eurotrashed: Europe’s Living a Celebration for this year’s Midsumma Festival provides a great opportunity for both Eurovision tragics and newbies to experience first hand Europe’s own version of a tacky television talent show.


The format of Eurotashed follows closely that of the real Eurovision contest: several countries, several songs and usually several artists. However, in this one-man show it was Daniel Kilby’s role to perform the full gamut of genres that these countries offer; everything from ballads to pop to swing, and something from San Marino that has strong potential of turning up on K-Pop.

Kilby’s great trashy performance provided some iconic Eurovision touches and therefore opportunities to take a shot, because Eurotrashed is not just about singing: it’s also about drinking. Amongst my favourite moments were Kilby’s all-white outfit (drink), the creepy over emoting (drink) and the overly enthusiastic French translation (drink – this isn’t strictly in the drinking game rule book, but it should be). I couldn’t help but wonder whether there needed to be a little bit more trash in the Eurotrashed repertoire. For instance there were no costume reveals or wind machines (or cheap pedestal fans) and there was only some subtle sparkle found on Kilby’s glittery converse shoes.

The lack of over-the-top trash did provide a stripped-back Eurovision experience that highlighted Kilby’s ability to sing and dance: talents that are actually optional in the Eurovision contest itself. So with a strong vocal performance and no strange staging effects for distraction, I found myself tapping my foot to the sweet German sound of swing, wishing for a glow-stick to sway during the Estonian power ballad Kuula, and being strangely entranced by Kilby’s convincing rendition of “I Feed You My Love”.

It isn’t exactly clear whether Eurotrashed is targeted at the Eurovision neophyte or die-hard fan, but either way the opportunity to participate in the voting process at the end definitely rounds out the Eurovision experience. I am though a little upset that my favourite song, “Waterline” from the hyped-up-on-red-cordial-Bros-look-alike-Irish-twins Jedward, did not win.

Eurotrashed is a little show, with huge heart and even bigger potential, which left a smile on my face and catchy song lyrics in my head.

Dates: 29 Jan – 2 Feb
Thu – Sat 7pm
Wed & Sun 6pm

Venue: The Butterfly Club, 5 Carson Place, Melbourne

Bookings: http://www.thebutterflyclub.com/shows

REVIEW: Drew Downing is REBEL

Gay icons, Hollywood heroes and rock-star charm

By Myron My

Drew Downing returns to The Butterfly Club as part of this year’s Midsumma Festival with his new cabaret show Rebel. Our eponymous rock star recounts his life growing up homosexual in the 60s, the era of ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’.

Despite being the preview performance, Downing was very relaxed, confident and charming on stage. His quips and interaction with the audience, although not a common occurrence, are used effectively in creating an intimate environment for him to share his stories. He remains committed to his character and is highly convincing as Rebel.


I was also very impressed by Downing’s voice and the original songs he performed. Supported by his three-man band (and at one point, jumping on a piano himself), his songs show an intimacy and poignant emotional level that is not often seen or heard. It is evident a lot of time went into perfecting the lyrics, especially with the ballads. Downing does not overplay this emotion but rather, remains very true to it.

However, I feel the narrative in Rebel gets lost at times, with one too many sub-plots preventing us really getting into the nuts and bolts of the story. The show sells itself as an expose of the character’s love affairs with classic screen stars Rock Hudson and James Dean, yet he does little more than gossip about his one-night stands and then moves on to other stories, giving the impression that interactions with these momentous gay icons have had no actual effect on him.

That said, the subsequent contrast of his stories revolving around his relationship with his closeted Uncle Randy and family back home work well in subtly exploring the ignorance and intolerance of that era when it came to homosexuality.

Downing’s acting, stage presence and most importantly, rock-star voice make Rebel well worth seeing, and I will be keen to see what he comes up with next.

Venue: The Butterfly Club, 256 Collins St (entry via Carson Place), CBD

Season: Until 26 January 9:00pm, Sun 8:00pm.

Tickets: $28 Full | $25 Conc

Bookings: http://www.thebutterflyclub.com