Reviews

Fat Swan review

Poor “little” Natalie Portly. All she wants is to play the coveted dual role of White Pig and Black Pig in Swine Lake but her monstrous mother, coldhearted choreographer and cunning co-star do nothing but trample on her hopes and dreams.

Trevor Ashley’s adult pantomime definitely delivers the laughs promised by one of the best hero shots ever seen on a theatre poster. It may be one-joke premise, but what a joke. The send up of the 2010 movie, which was an instant modern classic, is expanded upon to skewer all aspects of growing up, living and loving in the performing arts industry.

Co-writers Ashley and Phil Scott have updated aspects of their material for the return season, and while the odd reference lands with a bit of a thud, the vast majority of lines crackle and pop with delicious we’re-all-in-on-the-joke hilarity.

Adding considerably to the guilty pleasure vibe is the reckless joy of returning to childhood panto behavior without feeling self-conscious. The fun of shouting “Behind You!,” scrambling for lollies and breathing an inner sigh of relief not to have been chosen for on stage audience involvement may be standard panto fare, but the inclusion of eating disorders, simulated sex and lesbian ballerinas push the material well into adults only territory.

An well-chosen collection of adapted pop and music theatre songs, accompanied by keyboard and percussion, adds to the enjoyment. The dance song megamix finale is a boppy highlight. Singing is strong, although sound design was on the harsh side on opening night in this venue.

The fearless Ashley has the audience on his side throughout as the demented heroine, maintaining a high level of energy and chutzpah. As co-writer of this star vehicle, he has shown a generous nature in giving his three costars plenty of laughs and moments in the spotlight.

Grand dame Genevieve Lemon, as Natalie’s mother Barbara Hershey-bar, chews harder and harder on the scenery as the night progresses, scoring extra laughs with her impromptu deer-in-the-headlights errors and mishaps. Brendan Moar has a sexy, masculine presence as the self-important choreographer. Danielle Barnes adds to the frenetic energy as both the retiring and the up-and-coming fellow ballerinas at Yarra Ballet.

The show seems much more suited to a cabaret venue than a traditional theatre, but the Fairfax studio is not quite traditional and it certainly has a bar in the foyer. Get some friends together, have a drink or three beforehand, and prepare to laugh yourself silly at Fat Swan.

This review published on Theatre People 28 September 2012.

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