Flame Peas – The glamerous road to the Aussie Leagues Club exposed. (Theatre Review)
Old Fitz Theatre, late show season, 4-15 August.
Photo Credits: Dominic Lorrimer
Right from the start, the late night shows at The Old Fitz theatre have been a great idea, and one of the gems in the Red Line Productions programming that keeps the space “real” and throbbing with the unexpected delights that cheap indie theatre can provide in spades. The quality varies, but expectations include that and the humanity and generosity it takes to expand into that idea has made the late shows one of the ongoing pleasures of 2015. Theatre doesn’t always need to be flawless, but it must always have a beating heart, and if the late show season has given us anything this year, it is a consistently pounding pulse in the veins of Sydney theatre.
All this continues with the current late show, the deliciously fun Flame Peas. A cheeky little take on the life of the struggling theatre artist, the name draws inspiration from the popular mondegreen in the chorus from Cold Chisel’s Flame Trees – one of many Cold Chisel songs subject to mondegreen’s thanks to Jimmy Barnes’ iconic singing style. The title also taps into the plight of Danut and Valencia, a pair of semi-talented small towners from Western Australia, seeking to make it to the big time via the big smoke – their version of that being a tour of the NSW Leagues Club Association, with the initial stop over in Sydney. Their sad and sorry tale taps into the plight of so many talented wannabees with more vision than work ethic, and more art than craft.
As with so many shows of this nature, (and the late shows at The Old Fitz) the sketchy script showcases the real talent on display, and there is much to be had. Nicole Shostak can sing, and Phillippe Klaus can play (and sing) and is often the case in their style of performance, each are gifted far beyond what the material will allow for. It’s classic leagues club cabaret theatre, a phenomenon peculiar to Australia as no one has clubs like ours anywhere in the world. The dramatically overcosutmed woman in the sequined dress, the youthful talented pianist, and the painfully butchered songs. But above all, Flame Peas is a tribute to the wannabees that never actually make it, who get ripped off, spat on and so emotionally abused on the journey to success, who may find themselves married with kids in the suburbs when the whole sorry mess is over, or worse, endlessly trapped on the circuit of the B-grade leagues club performer.
Not that our protagonists Danut (a Ukrainian illegal immigrant gruffly and intelligently played by Phillippe Klaus) and Valencia (a very funny performance from Nicole Shostak) would turn their noses up at being permanently a part of the b-grade leagues club cabaret circuit. That’s their modest, yet distant dream and it is only when the happen upon Leagues Club talent scout (a larger than life Griffin Blumer) that they start to realise their dream may actually be within their grasp. And yet, perhaps it is further away than ever, through no fault of their own. The three cast members wrote the play together, and this does show a little, with three disjointed narratives struggling to meld successfully. But when actors want to put on a show case, who are we to judge? The three narratives, if too separate and strange to coalesce well, do give the three performers lots of wonderful opportunities to excel at their craft and provide a great night of theatre for an audience willing to connect with the casual quality of late night theatre. This production is lively (particularly in Blummer’s first few moments on stage) intelligent, big on laughs and easy enjoyable fun. What’s not to love?
Flame Peas is yet another nifty little contribution to the late night agenda currently at The Old Fitz. You can grab your tickets here.