A musical that challenges the portrayal and stereotypes of lesbians in popular culture, and coincidentally opened on the night of the Marriage Equality postal survey results being announced, left itself big shoes to fill.
There was no better way to celebrate a Yes Vote win for equality than a musical that immediately and strongly protests stereotypes of the portrayal of same sex oriented people in popular culture, specifically the “Kill your Gays”/ “Dead Lesbian” tropes often seen in TV series. The show also strongly portrays and makes fun of stereotypes of Asian women and women of colour, which is an equally important message in the show. Instead, the show displays the grilling and uncomfortable nature of racist questions, turned back on a Caucasian person.
The show follows Juliet (played by Margot Tanjutco) and Darcy (played by Louisa Wall taken as Mr Darcy from Pride and Prejudice) meeting and falling in love, despite the intervention of the dead lesbian chorus (Nisha Joseph, Sasha Chong and Pallavi Waghmode) trying to keep them safe and from falling into the trap of a Kill Your Gays trope. Sadly though, Juliet’s mother decides to whip up a batch of murderous dumplings that kill both Juliet and Darcy – but surprise! Grandma has intervened and saved the girls, and framed Mum for murder. A happy ending for all after a faked funeral, right? It’s a pity (and maybe because I’m not a Jane Austen fan and couldn’t finish Pride and Prejudice) that Darcy’s back story and why she moved to town was so skimmed over, and how out of nowhere Juliet wants to be a pilot – these characters have such strong and interesting back stories that can be further developed and investigated, to help tie the story together.
I would have liked to see a stronger story line, but one of the best elements of the Poppyseed Festival is that they support new and emerging work. We jump from lovers having a fight, an assumed but completely missing back story for Darcy (who died?), and suddenly we’re singing about murderous dumplings, but it has all the elements of a camp drama with real promise and strong audience relatability. This show, according to director and creator Jean Tong has been through another iteration, and I hope that throughout the shows run, and in the future the show continues to change and develop and become stronger.
The Butterfly Club may not be the greatest venue acoustically, but singing was pitchy and off key for the bulk of the show. The performances and the conviction however that went with this was unwavering and dedicated to character and the story line, so it’s a pity – highlight songs like “Why Do the Gays Always Die” stand out for their harmonies, how in sync and in tune the performers are, and I am guessing as one of the more rehearsed songs. The song sets a fantastic tone for the show as an opener and near-closing number, but is a significantly higher quality song than some of the other music included.
It’s a story of acceptance played out with all the flair and melodrama of a high school performance (with that same level of charming and infuriating immaturity and girl gang vibes played out through the show). The jokes are laugh out loud, but on opening night much of the jokes and some of the songs were lost due to a lack of volume or enunciation, something I hope would have improved across the season.
The costumes are simple and effective but poorly finished, with visible seams and edges all over the place, but the hidden sequins and tearaway pants give the show a fun and transformative vibe. The show feels intentionally tacky, but the choreography is slick, in numbers like “We Are So Not Racist”. Stage management is difficult in such a small venue, but often the cast would be off to the sides of the stage in the dark, the set is clunky and loudly brought through the back curtains,
The show has huge potential – it’s a musical rom com written and put together by queer women of colour, and their voice and story must be heard. This show, with more rehearsal and experience, and further development into the storyline could be expanded into a full length show, and will absolutely shine in the future – I look forward to seeing where it goes.
Romeo Is Not The Only Fruit played at The Butterfly Club as part of the Poppyseed Festival until 26 November 2017.