a brilliant production
sex.violence.blood.gore | Review
Joanna Bowen | Australian Stage
3 July, 2012
sex.violence.blood.gore. Surprisingly, these elements occupy a limited space in the show. There are plenty of attractive girls in old-style underwear, a little simulated sex and a little simulated violence, but not quite what the name leads you to expect.
Does that sound like a complaint? Well, it sort of is. It’s a matter of living up to expectations, or not living up to them in a strikingly successful way. I didn’t feel that this show did either. However, had the expectations not been set, I would have enjoyed it more.
The show is comprised of five parts, each telling a different story of perversion, set in Singaporean society, past, present and in an alternative existence. We meet masochists, repressed Lesbian colonial ladies and some utterly hilarious transvestites, one who carries her manhood around in a jar. Lastly we meet a hybrid creation, a character formed from Singapore’s largest expert in the porn industry and its first Prime Minister. As someone lacking all but a general sense of Singaporean politics, the significance of the character was lost on me. The performance, however, was a delight. Catherine Davies is engaging and enigmatic, with a strong and oh-so-sexy presence. I stopped trying to understand the character and just took in her story and enjoyed it.
The other actresses and one actor had an enormous challenge on their hands with numerous character changes, requiring strong abilities with mimicry and stereotyping as well as demanding engagement and believability. In most cases, they all achieved this mammoth task. Whitney Boyd in particular was brilliant – convincing, funny and hugely versatile. She worked well in concert with the gorgeous Zoe Boesen, who also played a very dynamic range of roles. Her whole-hearted drag-queen was hilarious, as was her trifold transvestite (woman to boy to woman). She managed to ham up her over the top characters while committing to them completely – the only way to really pull them off.
Our sole male representative on the cast, Matt Furlani, had his work cut out for him, as he came in half way through the rehearsal process when the previous actor had to pull out. Not that you could tell his from the performance! He creates for us an abused male prostitute, a table, a delightful trannie called Angel and some delicious drag-queenery. His very Australian accent offers an interesting contrast to his characters, and works effectively in the first Australian production of this play by merging – as, indeed, is unavoidable – the Australian with the Singaporean.
Amidst the strong casting and direction, the play itself has moments of being just a bit too obvious, like when the Cantonese maid replies that she was afraid of being indebted to her mistress because of the cost of the repayments (in a sexual sense, as she was aware of her mistress’s desires towards her). This wasn’t believable on several levels. At other times, we weren’t given enough pieces of the puzzle. I would have loved to know more about the male character who performs sexual favours for Japanese soldiers. How did he end up in that position? Who is his female lover? And why does it end the way it does?
Nevertheless, MKA has put together a brilliant production, and it’s wonderful that they’re bringing work from young overseas writers. The location and the set alone make it a great experience, and the casting and direction has made the most of the script, enhancing it with many brilliant performances and onstage connections.