StageArt Xposed is an initiative to stage showcases of new Australian works in development. While the company is currently enjoying a critically acclaimed season of its Australian premiere Memphis, StageArt makes way for Australian theatre writers to further develop and workshop new Australian works on the nights where their feature season takes a well earned break.
This season, the new works in the spotlight are Lay Down Sally and Beautiful Things: A really good looking musical.
Lay Down Sally takes a satirical look at Australian Sports culture, with particular reference to Sally Robbins who infamously ‘lay down’ in the middle of an Olympic rowing final in Athens in 2004. After failing to qualify for rowing at the Beijing Olympics in 2008, Robbins made a short-lived attempt to try her luck at competitive cycling. She achieved time trialist status before deciding to retire from competitive sport altogether. This musical takes an hilarious look at Sally’s attempt to reignite her sporting career amidst a storm of criticism and humiliation and descends into a chaotic, loosely accurate yet highly amusing retelling of her story.
The show is written by Spencer Hadlow, Taylen Furness and Andrew White, and in this showcase, the writing shines. The songs are catchy and wittily written. The use of such a broad Australian accent across the performance was effectively jarring at times. Their flair for comic timing and Australian humour keeps the comedy rollicking along and their performances never miss a beat. The production is stylistically undercooked, but this adds to its comedic value. Iconic childhood paraphernalia make for some hilariously underproduced props and imagery for cheaply edited video; the whole presentation has a distinctly laid back Australian feel. We meet several well known Australian entities along the way, from Rex Hunt to Nick Giannopoulos and Steven Bradbury, with references to other Aussie icons such as Shannon Noll and Lee Lin Chin; all are characterised in hilarious fashion.
Writers Hadlow, Furness and White all feature in the showcase as performers. The trio of lads execute their material well taking on the range of Australian sports heroes and celebrities. Sarah Calsina and Nicola Guzzardi join them with Guzzardi taking on the title role of Sally Robbins. Guzzardi is particularly impressive amongst the cast and performs with heightened energy and a brilliant vocal prowess. Calsina too shows great comic timing, especially against Hadlow in their co-starring commentator roles as Larry Emdur and Kylie Gilles.
Originally written as a short half hour show as part of a university arts festival, this showcase has been expanded to an hour long. I don’t know what plans are for this piece beyond this showcase, but I’m sure its themes and presentation are appealing enough that this could tour further within fringe festivals and the like. It doesn’t quite have the commercial appeal of Shane Warne the Musical, and the ‘Lay Down Sally’ saga has well and truly passed, and so this piece is possibly a decade too late to really be viable for a mainstream theatre season, however it does show a lot of promise and could easily spawn future entertainment shows surrounding current and future Australian disgraced sporting or media personnel. Apparently – as highlighted by the audience at this premiere performance – we all love a good laugh at someone else’s expense.
For a night of great laughs and Aussie references, get down to Chapel off Chapel on Tuesday 27th October to see the second and final staging of this workshop.
Photo credit: Robbie Carmellotti