****.5 stars

by Cassandra-Elli Yiannacou


S.S. Metaphor is not what to expect when you think of your average cabaret, but who promised anything average anyway? But what exactly is this metaphor adrift at sea then?  Simply put: an earnest, energetic and bright show getting ready to steer us all back to how special live performance can be.

This is live theatre for both the biggest theatre fan, and their parents who never go to see a show. It covers everything from the climate crisis, to class revolution, different ways to govern, wanting to murder your co-workers and the underrated singer Desiree.

Performed on the Malthouse outdoor stage with a dinner theatre seating, all of the audience is aboard a luxury cruise ship and has been for a year now as the world slowly sinks around us. There’s no way off this forced cycle of entertainment, but where else can we go? Steering us through the show is a small but mighty cast, who try to distract (and warn) us from the existential crisis threatening to disrupt our safe bubble, away from the world’s problems.

With all show,  audiences enter a contract similar to the one we have with our politicians; we made a choice to come and we let ourselves be guided by those on stage, we trust they know what we’re doing. Donned in a full glitter gown we’re set up to think we’re in for a night of being led through a show, instead what comes is the quick realisation that those in charge have no idea what they’re doing.

Forced to sing and dance in a nice Brave New World-esque plan to keep us all dumb and numb to the problems through entertainment, rebellion is afoot, and cleverly the show doesn’t rely on a quick shock switch from the standard cabaret plot, to a mini on deck revolution.  Instead, we know early on something is not quite right, with our lounge singer duo’s aggressive happiness in the beginning making sure our interests stay piqued.

Another stand out in Ash Flanders’ script is the way the audience is immersed by creating a feeling of powerlessness, we must bear witness to the chaos, rather that sticking with a more traditional route of constant audition participation to get us involved. We aren’t in control, but the people in charge shouldn’t be either.

Of course, the show is a delightfully unsubtle metaphor for the past two years and what (climate wise) is to come, if we keep learning nothing. It also pays tribute to our artists and essential workers, who have worked through the pandemic to keep us all feeling calm.

With brilliant performances from; Ash Flanders, Zenya Carmellotti, Will Conyers, and Natalie Gamsu, all of whom have stunning vocals and great comedic timing.

Jude Pearl Jed Palmer’s composition is a joy, and sings alongside the script.

A special mention to Zenya Carmellotti, who’s dorky research scientist plays both the chicken little and the ‘straight man’ character to the glitter and violence on stage. Nothing is more delightful than her bright clear voice, triumphantly encouraging a delusional merman (and us) to accept the reality in front of us and change.

Tickets are still available, but it is outside so don’t put your trust in Melbourne weather and bring a jacket!

If you want a show that leans into its genre, is genuinely clever but doesn’t put itself above a well-placed knob joke, then I can only recommend the SS Metaphor.

Images: Pia Johnson