The Sexual Awakening of Virginia Poppycock [VIC]
When I heard the title The Sexual Awakening of Virginia Poppycock, I just had to go and see the show. I was hoping the show would live up to its quirky and hilarious title. I was not disappointed. The Sexual Awakening of Virginia Poppycock” is a deliciously light-hearted parody of prim virginity, sexual hypocrisy and erotic confusion. Featuring an extremely girly character and a very mannish man, this little cabaret show is sure to delight.
The Butterfly Club is a very funky venue. It has probably over a hundred pieces of bric a brac and a series of small, intimate rooms. It certainly creates the mood for a cheerful, teasing and progressive show like this. Unlike many venues of similar character it actually has a raised stage. The production, written and created by Elena Gabrielle, is actually a return season after a successful run in Geelong. The shows is performed by Gabrielle, Marco Fusco and accompanist Simon Bruckard.
Elena Gabrielle plays the part of Virginia Poppycock, a twenty-six-year-old virgin. Virginia is determined to keep her virginity till her wedding night. At the same time she keeps fantasizing about sex like a curious, immature teenager. Virginia is dreamy and starry-eyed. She is wanting to come across as pure and clean to the outside world. But we see her inner dream world, and in that she is very obscene.
Gabrielle manages to deliver very dirty lines- i.e. “even my dog won’t do me,” while still keeping that pure, innocent quality. It is not clear why Virginia is so keen to keep her virginity. She obviously has an identity crisis though! She will switch from obscenity to propriety quite easily. She lives in her own private world surrounded by Eiffel Tower miniatures and France snow globes.
It is not that Virginia has not had boyfriends. But they were taken from her by a series of unfortunate incidents. She has been reading up on sex but has not had a chance to practice it... or may she has not given herself that chance! Virginia toys with the audience quite a bit. She propositions one audience member seriously. But when it comes to the crunch, she is reticent.
Eventually a real man comes into her life. His name is Richard Scrotumsberry the third (known as Dick). Dick is played by Marco Fusco. Dick is a big besuited man who presents as cultured and smart, and tries to seduce her with great eloquence. Virginia, though, is awed. During what is probably the funniest number in the show, he paws her very soundly indeed.
This is when we first see the prim side of her character. All of a sudden she is not so keen on sex after all. She is wanting sex in theory, but not in practice! Because Virginia is extremely insistent that she will hold off from sex before marriage, while at the same time is looking desperately for men, she ends up rather confused! The fantasist retreats to her old life. After indicating to her suitor that he is gross and disgusting, she returns to the safety of solitude.
Virginia lies in bed alone and picks up one of her sex books. Dick is persistent though. He returns and is rejected once more. He says sarcastically that she may as well masturbate with the Eiffel Tower. Virginia, a Francophile, takes him up on his remark, and the show goes to a different level.
Here the show seems- although this may sound surprising!- to be making some serious comment. There is a voiceover which describes how a woman must learn how to enjoy her own body before she can savour sex with a man. Virginia begins to experience her awakening. I’m not going to say more than that, because I don’t want to spoil the surprise.
Accompanist Bruckard was placed on stage on the audience’s left and, since the piano was between him and the actors, he was able to enhance the main action rather than infringing on it. The rest of the stage was a set representing Virginia’s bedroom. There was charming detail, such as her childish flannelette sheets and Paris snow globes. The production, in particular the use of the tiny cluster of stage lights, was very astute and made good use of the space.
The two actors also made ample use of the stage and the aisle. In such a little space it can get very claustrophobic, but the actors worked it so well that you could forget it was cramped. They were intimate and comfortable with the audience, and made it seem like we were a part of the show without compromising their focus in any way. The text of the show is blunt and to the point and always keep sight of the hilarious dual nature of Virginia. It makes good use of the element of surprise, and strikes a balance between her childlike blatancy and her primness.
Elena Gabrielle has an engaging smile and a lovely singing voice. She makes the character very appealing. She is all-embracing of the audience, sharing her attention equally between the patrons regardless of their gender. It was refreshing how relaxed she was through the show. She seemed to be enjoying herself in a leisurely way. Her initial costume consists of Eiffel Tower earrings, big elaborate glasses, a prim white shirt, blue swinging skirt and a red leather belt. Her get-up is crisp and elegant while a bit nerdy and clueless at the same time, like the character!
Some of Virginia’s characteristic gestures when dancing in her inner dream world verge on erotic and blatant, but there is always a carefully controlled restraint and subtlety coming from the actor. It is like the actor is on very familiar ground. She also manages to keep Virginia innocent and unknowing through her silly sex monologues. Fusco is a very dramatic and powerful performer who also has good projection as a singer, and yes, they are the perfect foil for each other.
This is a funny and positive show. It does have a volume of swear words and adult concepts, but the issue of sex is dealt with, due to the personality of the main character, in a prim and nice way. With an early start, and rather short in length, it did make for a very cute evening’s entertainment.