Sunday, March 6, 2016

Space Cats

Photo by Andre Vasquez

Brevity Theatre and Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras Festival presents, SPACE CATS - an Intergalactic Feline Musical, by Samantha Young, at The Old 505 Theatre, Eliza St. Newtown.

SPACE CATS - an Intergalactic Feline Musical at the Old 505 Theatre in Newtown has been Written and Directed by, and co-stars, Samantha Young.

It begins in Russia in 1957 with the launching of the first dog, Laika (Graeme Mcrae), into space. This 'rocket' however, unlike the real satellite of history, crash lands onto a planet made up of 4 cats and many, many glitter balls. There is a sad-sack self deprecating tabby cat living in a bin (Samantha Young) who pleads relentlessly for our empathy, there are two male slave cats, who reveal their true sexuality during the  show - guess what it is? Don't think their costuming is a clue! (Jonny Hawkins, Gautier Pavlovic-Hobba) - serving a dominating 'Red Queen' cat (Eliza Reilly) who has killed off everybody else and has a particular virulently anti-gay demeanour, who decides she wants to have sex with Laika - the Russian dog!  - the biological likelihood of that may be countered, in logic, by the author's revelation of the Red Queen's desperation, or sheer craziness. There are songs and lots of choreography. The piece is as silly as that may sound. It's 'deeper' dramaturgical purpose promotes the societal need to accept 'the other', especially gays, and suggests there is no rancour necessary towards the minorities if we just "Let it be, Let it be, let it be."

The Design, and especially the Lighting by Benjamin Brockman is colourful and an active energy in keeping the production afloat. He does more than his fair share to help keep our attention. There are some good songs from Composer and Musical Director, Matthew Predny (with help from Emele Ugavale with one contribution), sung best by Ms Young and Mr Mcrae. The Choreography, by Matt Cornell, tries much but sometimes looks as if it is too difficult for some of the performers - out of time and falling. There is one 'awful' performance (with some self-amused breakout giggling), two barely competent performances, a 'good' performance, and an outstanding one, particularly considering all the circumstances of this play and production - and that is given by Mr Mcrae, who sustains his dog-act in a beautifully moving portrait of bewilderment and good sense.

A fellow audience member remarked, after the event of the performance, that it felt odd that in a 2016 production of a play which promotes toleration and gay rights that the hero of the story is a Russian - Mr Putin will be pleased, even if the LGBTI population of Russia may be perturbed! We were perturbed, and pondered if this was a deliberate intellectual ploy by the writer, and if it was, what was her intention, or, was it just ignorance of the Gay world and its present persecution. We thought of the insensitive or ignorant Sam Smith acceptance speech at the Academy Award ceremony last Sunday? Curious. Amnesia or deliberate ignorance seems to be a virulent contemporary plague!

Brevity Theatre Company, and the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras Festival, last year, presented VAMPIRE LESBIANS OF SODOM, and had at least some remnants of the writing of Charles Busch to sustain interest and credulity over its indulgent playing time. Ms Young, who was responsible for that production, has concocted, here, as Writer, Director and Co-Star, a work with all the external trappings of a glamourous design  and an indulgence to musical tastes, with no real dramaturgical skill: taking an important and sensitive social issue of discrimination and intolerance, with a pastiche of the famous Musical CATS, (even joking with the famous 'green eyes' image) and then creating a banal, 'kitchy', wrong-headed, stupidity. I should report that there were some around me that whooped it up.

There are so many other shows that are part of the 2016 Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras Festival that the only audience, I reckon, that need to see SPACE CATS are those family and friends who have an emotional loyalty to the performers. That they have so devotedly given so much time to presenting this work, should have, at least, that acknowledgment. But Why and How did this work get to this stage at The Old 505 without someone giving advice about its qualities, I am gob-smacked. Having just had a visit to some of the theatre capitals of the English speaking world and seen a variety of work, I can't be as indulgent toward this work, as I might otherwise have been. Quality standards have been set.

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