The convulsive comedy premiered to critical acclaim at Sydney’s Griffin Theatre Company in 2018. This new production – directed by Declan Greene with a talented cast – snares a share of dark and anarchic laughter, but the writing is a stylistic mess.
At the play’s centre sits Kimberly (Michelle Brasier), a young woman whose mother (Belinda McClory) is recovering from cancer and must grimly endure a visit from an upbeat friend.
Suddenly Kimberly leaps onstage like a creature possessed, upending the comedy of bourgeois excruciation with savage slapstick. She then goes to a mall, challenges a flamboyant gay beautician (Patrick Durnan Silva) to live up to his persona, and later drives her psychotherapist mad.
Gate-crashing an engagement party, Kimberly meets Miles (George Lingard) and his fiance Lily (Emily Milledge), and “falls in love” with Miles. Her pursuit of this infatuation leads to masochistic humiliations.
Kimberly’s queer bond with socially diffident Lily provides a rare spark of tenderness in a work dominated by vicious and grotesque upper-middle-class caricature, with insufficient depth to render human truths underneath.
The actors struggle valiantly to suggest the latter and occasionally succeed. Milledge strikes a compelling tragicomic balance between the vapid prescriptions of culture, gender and class and the uncanniness of suffering, and conveys how profound a challenge it is to fully realise a shallow character.
McClory’s cynical, narcissistic mother is a brilliant black comic creation, and Durnan Silva’s camp intrusions possess an effervescent silliness.
Yet the social satire is too superficial. It’s more like watching someone obsessively picking at scabs than performing vital comic surgery, and the outbreaks of surrealism feel unanchored by genuine emotion.
Kimberly remains a blank until a last-minute, and totally unearned, revelation. She seems deliberately to withhold any authentic sense of love, and, in the end, you don’t quite believe it’s there.