Vampire Lesbians Of Sodom – Don’t dream it, be it. (Theatre Review)
Vampire Lesbians of Sodom
Feb 25 through to March 7, Level 4 Kings Cross Hotel Theatre
You may wonder at a statement that claims the Sydney theatre scene really needs Vampire Lesbians of Sodom, but a quick hop up to the Level 4 theatre at the Kings Cross hotel, hot tickets in hand, will undoubtedly convince you of the rightness of that claim. For the tiresome, perpetual lamenters of a supposed absence of free speech in a post politcally correct world, behold an unfettered freedom of expression that will no doubt make you blush – the Andrew Bolts of Sydney are most welcome to see what free speech really looks like. A wild creative expression, delighting in its own flaunting flirtatiousness, with no intention of taking itself seriously, offending everyone and no one in its willingness to tar everyone with the same brush that starts with an assumption we’re all perverts in some sense of the word. In a show highlight, Eliza Reiley as a fourteen year old virgin ready to be sacrificed by her city to the dreaded Succubus sings an apology for the foolishness of maintaining one’s virginity. With lines like “If only I’d fucked, I wouldn’t be fucked” you know you’re in for a night of boundary crossing, that manages to contain its own critical irony. Vampire Lesbians of Sodom isn’t just cheeky, its clever as well.
Busch wrote Vampire Lesbians of Sodom in 1984, when his solo show (Alone with a cast of thousands) was starting to dwindle and it seemed possible that his professional theatre days might be drawing to a close. When the show was a huge hit (it ran off-Broadway for over five years) he had a career on his hands, but there is no mistaking the at-this-point-I-might-as-well-do-anything aesthetic leaning over the show holds the key to its great success. Bush combines the larger than life film version of femininity with its counter-part drag to form more of a passionate ode that can’t help caricaturing its own ridiculous excesses. Part of what makes Vampire Lesbians from Sodom so clever is the appropriation of a variety of larger-than-life feminine conceits that leave us in no doubt we’re talking about “feminine” rather than “female.” It’s this witty take on the unnatural extreme of the bathos of femininity that give the play a very contemporary feel. Vampire Lesbians from Sodom never just looks like guys dressed up as girls and vice versa.
Busch’s play is fabulous enough, but currently in Sydney we have the advantage of seeing it produced by Brevity Theatre company and a cast who take full advantage of every opportunity to have the marvellous times the play affords – and there are many to be had. The joy and exuberance are infectious with the show starting high on laughs and never letting up till it reaches its hilarious end. It opens with a theatre full of bubbles and a bunch of gently crooning maidens, who as it turns out, are being prepared for sacrifice in the biblical city of Sodom. Sodom mistakenly imagines it can stave off any godly wrath over its behaviours by sacrificing a virgin regularly to the unholy Succubus. However as we know, this sacrifice is misplaced and despite god taking out his wrath and destroying the city, the Succubus, hitherto known as La Condessa will survive as will her last sacrifice, Madelaine Astarte. This begins a feud between the pair that will last throughout history and many hilarious musical numbers.
The dueling lesbians are played by Nicholas Gell and Eliza Reilley, he sophisticating camp and she cheezing up showgirl, but it’s the entire cast that elevate Vampire Lesbians of Sodom to a raucous night of theatre that manages to appeal to the mind as well as the pink bits. Much of the original play has been tweaked to its complete advantage and the cast have not only taken full ownership of the show, but it appears have sworn a blood oath to have a marvellous time. Their glee is not necessary to the exuberance of the performance, but adds a cherry-on-top pleasure conducive to visual spectacle. This is further reflected in the audience buzz as soon as the curtain falls, the clasping of hands and the breathy “didn’t you just love that?” you hear echoing through the Kings Cross theatre after.
Like all great shows the fabulous cast are supported by a fabulous bevy of talent. It all begins with some great songs arranged and composed by Matthew Predney who has transformed the original play out of its 80’s origins without leaving the glitter and neon we have grown to love. The music revolutionises the play through these sharp, witty songs that manage to blend seamlessly with Bush’s overall aesthetic and are one of the many high points of the show. Choreographer Nat Jobe enhances and extends the modest space reaching into the audience with dance movement inspired by vaudeville and those 80’s drag shows. Ben Brockman’s lighting and stage work cleverly straddles time spheres, all very show girls while equally vestal virgin sacrifice. He’s taken a small space and bled it out into the audience 1940’s cabaret style so that the night feels like a cross between sleazy Berlin nightclub and in-yer-face Saffronn-esque Les Girls. All of this is brought together into a writhing sequined, feathered mass by director Samantha Young and producer Alexander Butt who have a unique awareness of the space and energy level required to give a show like this a contemporary vibe. The work is remarkably successful, sleekly slipping past the tropes of the Mardi Gras drag show while keeping the traditions and creative excitement alive.
Vampire Lesbians of Sodom is a night at the theatre you will not soon forget, and will probably want to attend many times over. Highly recommended.