REVIEWER RATING: ★★★★
A lot of high-quality dramatic storytelling has appeared on Sydney stages this year. In fact, it’s fair to say we’ve been spoiled by what’s been on offer, both in terms of mainstage productions and the work going on in the incredible independent theatre spaces around the CBD. So many productions have provoked us to think about the issues of great importance to our society at this point in time, to reflect on what needs to change in our world, and to contemplate what matters most.
The Lyin’ Queen does none of those things. Instead, it’s a cosmically high camp, totally ridiculous and thoroughly entertaining romp that’s sole purpose is to make you laugh – and it does just that. The latest brainchild of actor, writer, director and self-described international queen of cabaret, Trevor Ashley, it’s a show that’s been six years in the making and opened Wednesday at the Playhouse at Sydney Opera House.
In this raucous show (written by Ashley and Phil Scott), the audience is taken to an island somewhere off the east coast of Australia that is said to be inhabited by terrifying creatures, created through genetic engineering. An eccentric billionaire, Dr Richard Rabbitborough (Scott), has built a theme park on the island around the creatures (sound familiar?) and wants to promote this new attraction to the world.
Enter Gaye Wray ‘from Home and Away’ (played be Ashley). Wray is an actress on a mission to shed her soap star status and to be taken seriously, when she receives a phone call from Rabbitborough, asking her to star in a commercial for the new theme park. Unable to resist the money, she flies to the island.
Of course, when Wray arrives, things don’t pan out as expected. It’s not long before an electrical storm hits the island, and she and those around her are on the run from the amorous King Schlong. Will it all end in tragedy? Or is there a happy ending? And, most importantly, will Wray finally be free of the constant reminders of her soap star days?
The Lyin’ Queen lampoons as much as it possibly can, but pays particular homage to The Lion King, Jurassic Park and King Kong. For this reviewer, it’s an experience reminiscent of sketch comedy series Fast Forward in the late eighties and early nineties, including the topical political references and pop music parodies. With respect to the music, expect to hear send-ups of a range of songs, from the hits of Lady Gaga and Madonna to musical theatre classics by Stephen Sondheim. You’ll even hear one of Australia’s most recognisable TV themes as you’ve never heard it before.
In terms of the cast, Ashley’s portrayal of the uncensored wannabe Hollywood star is the highlight. His knack for comedy is undeniable. As Rabbitborough, co-writer Scott is terrific, himself a consummate comedian. Elenoa Rokobaro, as ‘island native’ Graffiti, is the show’s standout singer, the vocal powerhouse making light work of each of her numbers while also demonstrating her own comedic skills. Shannon Dooley is another asset to this production, shining as Dr Fiona Fern, the world’s leading ‘plantologist’. Brendan Irving completes the cast as a Swedish adventurer and Instagram influencer, Garrison Fjörd, and showcases his acrobatic expertise in some remarkable displays using aerial silks.
Large inflatable sets (created by Erth) fill the stage and some impressive puppets make an appearance. Angela White adds a generous dash of glitz to proceedings with her excellent costumes, from Wray’s old Hollywood glamour garbs to Graffiti’s Lion King-inspired attire, while Gavan Swift’s lighting choices suit the colour and vibrancy of the show to a tee.
Be warned – The Lyin’ Queen is not for the faint-hearted or easily offended. This is very much an adults-only presentation. But if you’re after a fun night out to send off 2019 and you’re not averse to some really silly antics, Ashley and co. have you covered. Sit back and enjoy the ride.
Photo credit: John McRae
THE LYIN’ QUEEN – SEASON DETAILS
SYDNEY OPERA HOUSE, PLAYHOUSE
Dates: Playing now until Sunday 1 December 2019
Friday 29 November 7:30pm
Saturday 30 November 5pm and 8:30pm
Sunday 1 December 4pm and 7:30pm
Tickets: From $69.90 (transaction fees may apply)
Bookings: www.sydneyoperahouse.com or (02) 9250 7777
www.ticketmaster.com.au or 1300 723 038
ETERNITY PLAYHOUSE (39 Burton Street, Darlinghurst)
Dates: Tuesday 10 December to Saturday 21 December 2019
Tuesday to Friday 8pm
Saturdays 5pm and 8:30pm
Tickets: From $79.90 (transaction fees may apply)
Bookings: www.darlinghursttheatre.com or (02) 8356 9987