Nothing too strange catches the eye as you walk into the reginald theatre for ‘Queerer Things,’ directed by Grace Franki and Henry Hulme. A rainbow trail on the wall leads you into the theatre. Lights are strewn above the stage like tinsel and a seven-piece band plays in the corner. It is two minutes to starting time, and the audience settles into their seats. Some of the audience members whoop and cheer for their friends on stage—between the Christmas lights and caramelised sounds of the brass section, there is a familiar sense of community.
But then the show starts—and just like in the original Stranger Things, you are flipped into the Upside Down.
You are lurched into a disco-drenched world of slinking dance moves, black lace, and the sultry cooing of the saxophone. The cast poses languidly on the catwalk above, seducing you.
The dramatic atmospheric shifts back to reality, leave you at the will of the in-between.
Queer Revue 2018 is a colourful exploration of sexuality and identity. With side-splitting humour, the show illustrates current issues about the LGBTIQ community and beyond, touching on consumerism, materialism, capitalism, narcissism—even on Tony Abbott. Humourous reality and sincere absurdity are balanced for a seriously enjoyable show.
Directors Franki and Hulme have managed to juxtapose sexual lewdness with melodramatic innocence, all while maintaining a flow of entertainment. Though some skits seem randomly placed, this contributes to the overall aleatory atmosphere. The renditions of current news are painfully accurate, and the burlesque interludes provide welcome relief. In particular, the directors are masterful in their use of dramatic irony and off-stage action. Video projection as well adds an effective, seamless layer of depth to the scenes. The screen could be used more effectively in the ‘Okay Google’ scene, but again, the occasional artistic gap makes for an overall twisting, playful production.
The actors are impressive in their diverse roles, and the small cast means the audience can fully appreciate their malleability. The extreme contrasts between skits also serves them well, and the cast successfully performs both the celebration and the exploration of sexuality.
References to the real ‘Stranger Things’ are scattered inconsistently throughout the production, but they tend to be faithful echoes of the original show. Metamorphosing the Upside Down into a cabaret underworld is ingenious and tonally cogent with the skits. The running time is relatively short, and the show ended on a high note as the cast reunited for a final musical number.
2018’s Queer Revue is real in its absurdity, honest in its deflective humour, and ultimately skillful in its shortcomings.
Queerer Things: Queer Revue 2018 is playing its last show at the Seymour Centre’s Reginald Theatre, 7 pm Saturday 19 May.