Ellie, Abbie (& Ellie’s Dead Aunt) – Theatre with a heart and a brain. (Theatre review)

Ellie, Abbie (& Ellie’s dead Aunt)

The Depot Theatre and Feet First Ventures

29 March to 8 April. At the time of publishing this review, this production has stopped running at The Depot Theatre. You can find out more about future productions here. 

The distrust imposed upon females over their choice of art and literature reveals itself through time. I blame Flaubert (but it wasn’t only him) for the omnipresent belief that women can’t be trusted with their own romance novels, and this has continued through to cinema and the rom-com. The corollary of this disdain is the equally discrepant belief that war films depict reality, or westerns are making serious commentary on sociocultural theory.  You can’t have it both ways; either film reveals its own subtext and that is worth exploring or it doesn’t. Genre imposition (and judgement) reveals a fear or purity being tainted and a need for border patrolling. In a broad sense the subject of the romantic comedy is the values, attitudes, and practices that shape the play of human desire. The rom-com allows women and men to reflect upon romance (and relationships) as a personal experience and a social phenomenon,. It is the search for the subtext of the romantic comedy that drive writers such as Celestino Deleyto and his manifesto The Secret Life of Romantic Comedy. This is at last revealing itself in romantic comedies such as Obvious Child and But I’m a Cheerleader and currently, in the theatrical production, Ellie, Abbie (& Ellie’s Dead Aunt.)

The very talented writer Monica Zanetti has put together a charming piece of theatre-as-rom-com in this latest production from Depot Theatre and Feet First Ventures. In what appears as a gay twist on a typical romantic comedy, Monica Zanetti reaches deeper into her subject matter and presents to some important questions besetting the LGBTQ community, Feminism, Black Lives Matter and other “leftist” groups considering the relationship between ideology and politics. Gone are the Maoists theories using the cutting edge of science as a theoretical equivalent to the cutting edge of rebellion. Yet the return to a kind of existentialism in a relation to the bastion of imperialism (previously the inert political institutions of parliament and the trade unions) equally loses its way – particularly when considering the plight of the working class. And, by the way, on that subject; is the working class the essence of the constitutional subject? Is part of the contemporary battle between the boomer left (represented by Socialism) and the millennial left (represented by Political Correctness) a battle for the constitutional subject? The Baby Boomers who rejected Brexit and voted in Donald Trump are the very Gordon Gecho’s of the 1980’s. Who ever thought socialism was anything other than an ideology attached to a lifestyle choice?

When Monica Zanetti posits the observation that the Vietnam War stands in parallel with the violent LGBTQ demonstrations of the 1960’a in Kings Cross is she not suggesting both are a passive synthesis? Is she suggesting that material production has a retroactive impact upon individual habit and totalises them into inertia? The human unity of the array is a unity that is grounded in impotence: being identical with the Other, everyone is external to himself and therefore cut off from free practice. This impotence of the people, as Marx suggests, becomes the internal divisions and a movements separation from itself. It is this that gives power to a movements enemy. Monica Zanetti plays with this trope by presenting the interference to a free life as a lesbian in the guise of her mother, whose authority comes not from parental control (as the audience might expect, anticipate and impose) but from a loving concern based on a (no spoilers) historical fact. Either way, the result for Ellie is the same and the enemies of the LGBTQ movement gain traction through a natural divide that cannot be encased in blame.

Ellie, Abbie (& Ellie’s Dead Aunt) is a cheerful, beautifully written comedy with more than a heart – it has a strong brain. This clever production includes all the tropes of the Rom-Com to give the audience a sense of joyful interaction with its themes, that (true to the tropes of the romantic comedy) go deeper into the heart of the world of the LGBTQ freedom fighter. A strong sense of spirit for unsung heroes who fought in a war rejected by the mainstream pervades the production and calls forth such a strong sense of nuanced engagement that the play is impossible to forget. On a stark set, in a large room, the broader intentions of Monica Zenetti fill the room with a rainbow spirit that each audience member takes away with them. I took two school age girls to this production, and they were enthralled with the quick dialogue, the taut presentation and the swift flowing narrative. This is a great production for high school students to engage with a fresh perspective on boarder issues in the society around them.

A shout out to Zanettie’s great cast who support the shows concepts admirably. Particularly the two young female leads, Sophie Hawkshaw and Geraldine Viswanathan (what a fabulous stage presence) who carry the show admirably on their shoulders. The warmth and genuine engagement of the cast bring the best of the show to the fore and the audience is left with a joyful engagement with at times, very sensitive subject matter.

Elle, Abbie (& Abbie’s Dead Aunt) is a wonderfully warm show that should delight audiences with one of those delicious little surprises Indie theatre is capable of thrilling theatre audiences with regularly.

Highly Recommended