The Colour Orange + Bitch Boxer - Thursday 14th September
Being the first audience for new work is always a thrill. Being the first audience for new work written, produced and performed by your mates is the pinnacle.
Waiting on a cold set of bleachers in the enormous warehouse-cum-Festival Hub, I begin to feel a little nervous for what is about to take place. The Colour Orange is an original musical by Oliver Cameron and Sophia Roberts, which shines a satirical spotlight on the hero of the story: Pauline Hanson. Writing a good musical is hard, good comedy even harder. Add political satire into the mix and you’ve got a recipe that could go as wrong as the One Nation party itself.
The first drawling tones of a True Blue Aussie accent start up over the speakers, and we’re off tumbling into a bright spiral of cropped wigs, fake durries and salty banter. With only an hour to get the polls up, the incredibly talented cast present a song-cycle, with small transition scenes tracing a loose storyline fleshed out by full music and dance numbers.
The music is spectacular. Even without the biting political witticisms, I would listen to this cast of five (Gavin Brown, Kirralee Elliott, Liam Ferguson, Gabi Kelland and Zara Stanton) sing these songs in delicious, dynamic harmony for far longer than an hour. I might be slightly biased – especially considering Tina Sparkle is decked out in an old dance costume of my own – but I spend the entire hour revelling in the very real skill of the cast and band, cheering at the ridiculous characterisations and laughing appreciatively with the crowd, quite free of any sense of obligation. Sophia and Oliver have some work ahead of them if they decide to turn this taster into a full-length musical, but for now it’s a glowing showcase of extreme promise.
I manage to nab a lift to my next destination: Erskineville Town Hall. The tiny, cylindrical foyer is already packed with people when I arrive, with two shows about to commence and the buzz of expectancy spreading fast.
It’s been a long time since I’ve seen a true monologue, especially in a context beyond the 8-minute constraints of a drama classroom. Bitch Boxer – deftly directed by Victor Kalka – reminds me of what I love about the form; the true affective power in sustained, committed and immersive embodiment of character.
Alice Birbara is a dynamic force. She moves from fierce, physical assertion to conspiratorial stillness, the steady flow of her storytelling keeping us all absolutely hooked. Sitting in the intimate confines of the Spare Room, I notice the stillness around me. No one shifts for long moments; we’re absorbed in Chloe Jackson’s world of heartache and grit, only the perfectly played moments of humour breaking us all into giggles. There is no avoiding eye contact here; no ignoring the steady accumulation of spittle and sweat in the peak of the boxing ring. It’s forty five minutes of captivation and a poignant portrayal of the real fighting worlds of young women, who must constantly anchor themselves with their own determination.
[Oooft, tomorrow sees more musical theatre with Mysteries of Mad River, followed by the indomitable Betty Grumble]
Written by Genevieve de Souza