Picture this: A gold Lamé clad ape, complete with ‘merkin’, hurtling through space on a meteorite, trying to decipher the messes of the human world. If you can grasp this odd, eccentric premise then you are well on your way to appreciating this unique offering from Helpmann Award winner Sarah Ward.
THE LEGEND OF QUEEN KONG, EPISODE II: QUEEN KONG IN OUTER SPACE is much more than a zany, rollercoaster of insanity. It is complex, not just in performance and production but also in message. Queen Kong, an immortal being, part rock / part ape, imprisoned by humans, summons a passing meteorite to her rescue and so begins an absurd journey through time and space.
Exploring gender stereotype, religious beliefs, patriarchy, social, environmental issues and the human response, it is zany art with something to say. ‘What is so KIND about manKIND? Human nature is a boy band. Genes are denim pants, DNA the other way spells … AND’ to mention just a few of Queen Kong’s pearls of wisdom. Admittedly, there are moments of confused narrative where we are lead from skilled absurdity into precarious ridiculousness, but these moments are short lived.
Ward is without a doubt an extremely skilled performer. From the moment she steps onto the Fairfax stage, there is utmost commitment and belief in Queen Kong. Vocally, Ward is a sensation. Her complexity and range is astounding, flipping between rock, pop, folk, opera and even beat poetry with what seems (but I’m sure it’s not!) the greatest of ease. There is a security in Ward’s performance that does not falter in a show that could very easily fall apart in less capable hands.
Music director Bec Matthews leads a brilliant on stage band, the queer gender diverse HOMOsapiens. Gen Bernstein (lead guitar), Jo Franklin (Rhythm guitar), Cerise Howard (bass) with Matthews on drums, all accomplished vocalists, are exceptionally tight with impressive harmony work a musical highlight.
The songs are eclectic, very catchy and very wacky. The upbeat ‘NOMO FOMO’ (fear of missing out – complete with the popular line ‘No Mo ScoMo!’); the wonderfully dramatic vocals in the opera-esque ‘O Madre’, ’What is Spahettification?’ – the scientific term where an object is stretched and ripped apart by gravitational forces on falling into a black hole!, and the hilarious Euro pop inspired track ‘I’m a Blancmange’, keep the show moving and the audience intrigued as to which direction we will be going next.
A major theme is acceptance, diversity and inclusion and the entire production is Auslan interpreted both on stage, by Kirri Dangerfield – herself a lovely addition to the action and on screen by the ‘Motherboard’ (the conduit of all communication between life forms) played with great sass and humour by Asphyxia. The planetary inspired lighting design, wonderful videography (Will Huxley) and animation (Finn Scholes) compliments the outrageous but fitting costume designs.
This show may divide. Its obscurity may challenge, but it is a refreshing chance to experience something very different, something very clever and appreciate a true vocalist challenging convention. Let’s face it, life’s too short to not enjoy a little bit of crazy with a message!
THE LEGEND OF QUEEN KONG, EPISODE II: QUEEN KONG IN OUTER SPACE plays at the Arts Centre until Sunday 20 January.