22
Jul
13

Little Orphan TrAshley

 

Little Orphan TrAshley

Brisbane Powerhouse

17 – 20 July 2013

 

Reviewed by Xanthe Coward 

 

Direct from a sell-out season at Sydney Opera House, the writers who brought you the smash hit Fat Swan (Trevor Ashley and Phil Scott) team up with acclaimed director Craig Ilott (Smoke & Mirrors) to give you this uproarious new spectacle with an all-star cast.

 

Ashley stars as little orphan Fannie, a ten-year old with a terrible secret… one she can’t even share with her inmates at the Sutherland Shire Girl’s Orphanage, let alone the bad-tempered showbiz has-been who runs the place: the drunken Miss Trannigan (Rhonda Burchmore). The truth is: Fannie is not yet all woman. But, to get her gender reassignment surgery, she’ll have to find her true birth parents to get their permission.

 

Luckily for Fannie, she meets acclaimed photographer/multimillionaire Daddy Warhorse (Gary Sweet) who promises to sponsor her! But can she survive a rigorous set of blind auditions, a very ‘arty’ photoshoot and an appearance on evil controversial talk-back radio personality Ellen Jones’ show before she finds her parents?

 

To make her wish come true, Fannie may need more than just her trusty ex-sniffer dog Bullshit (Rhys Bobridge).

 

Well, you might have LOVED this show. I’m happy for you #winning

 

Let me know in the comments section below what it was you loved (as opposed to telling me what you think I should already know about my lack of knowledge, experience, tact, etc, etc when it comes to reviewing theatre).

 

I really wanted to love this production. I’ve missed previous TrAshley shows but I was looking forward to seeing this one. I had a ball live tweeting the show (I’ll add those Instagram pics later), but I didn’t enjoy it. In fact, I’m surprised that something so unpolished has had some of the rave reviews it’s had. There is such a wealth of talent involved in this production but sadly, very little of it manages to cut through the crass humour and faltering pace. It could be that the brand of humour is just not my cup of tea, but even so, I expected a higher standard across all departments, regardless of personal preference when it comes to comedy.

 

Do you know what this show was? (An industry peep who shall remain nameless said it was a train wreck!). For me, it was one of those really bad parties (you know the ones, you’ve been to them too), when someone who is not the most popular person in the building invites everyone around after work on a Friday night and you go with some colleagues and a couple of add-ons because there was nothing else planned, but there’s no footy on, and they haven’t tidied the house, or planned any party games, or offered the first drink, and they’ve shopped at Coles on the way home with a budget of $32 for chips, cheese and crackers for 30 people (can you even GET chips, cheese and crackers for 30 people for under $32?). While this scenario would make a decent play, the feeling during the show that I was AT THAT AWFUL AWKWARD PARTY did nothing to convince me that I was experiencing the same show I’ve heard others go wild about!

 

Of course I was there with my social media hat on, having been invited to a lovely little pre-show soiree by the fast-moving folk in digital marketing at Brisbane Powerhouse. My feedback to them was not really for them (other than that they put on a lovely little soiree), but for the performers; if they’re going to announce before the show that they’d like us to turn ON our mobile phones and tweet the night away, they need to pause for a moment longer in those wonderful camp poses so we can get great, clear shots to post! It’s a great idea, and opens up the discussion on the merits (and annoyance to other patrons) of Tweet Seats at performances, particularly at performances of this nature. Social media loves the shock value. The Brisbane Powerhouse team are way ahead on so many counts, but I hope they have some better quality fodder to throw at us next time. Or a whole lot more champagne.

 

It goes without saying that if something sells out at the Sydney Opera House you’re gonna’ wanna’ bring it to your venue, but I fail to see what’s so appealing about Little Orphan TrAshley. It failed on so many levels for me, and I don’t think it’s useful to anybody to say otherwise. If I did, it would be a case of supporting and condoning the mediocre in a country that is renowned for its cabaret. Yes we are, indeed! So how does a show like this get let loose on the unsuspecting public? I DON’T KNOW. BUT I WOULD LIKE TO KNOW. IT FASCINATES ME. It’s different to just not being blown away by a great show (case in point: Mrs Warren’s Profession & The Maids. No, I haven’t written about them yet). So. Oh dear. Here we go. Here’s the break down:

 

  • the premise is tres amusement for a moment and then IT GETS OLD
  • the set actually looks CHEAP. This may well be the intention.
  • the lack of improvisation skills baffles me. A simple encore of the opening number would have saved everybody – performers, crew and audience – the uncomfortable two and a half minutes on opening night of microphone lead or pack probs, or whatever it was that made us all squirm uncomfortably while a techie adjusted something beneath Burchmore’s skirt. That’s right. And yet nobody on stage or off had the initiative/training/experience/forethought/improvisational skills/confidence to call it. EXCEPT THEY ALL HAVE ONE OR MORE OF THOSE SKILLS/QUALITIES. They just stood there looking embarrassed. Oh, and in the middle of all that awkward silence TrAshley acknowledged via his working mic, “Well, this is fucked!” BIG MISTAKE. I’m afraid I lost a lot of respect right there. Even in community theatre THE SHOW MUST GO ON
  • the jokes are bad. Really bad. Like, think of the worst racist, misogynist dad joke you’ve ever heard and multiply that by about 100 you-can’t-laugh-at-that groans, and that is ALMOST how poor the comedy is. I was expecting trashy AND witty. I was genuinely surprised when people laughed.
  • pedophile jokes – and worse, characters that are built upon them – are never funny

 

Bobridge and Burchmore both did their best to save the night, almost succeeding on a number of occasions, but even his chap-clad buttocks, cheeky grin and spot-on moves, and her sass, self-deprecating humour and supersize talent wasn’t enough to win me over. 

 

IS IT JUST ME? It might be. And that’s okay. I know TrAshley has a huge following already, and some of the dedicated fans were obviously glad to have caught this Brisbane season. They weren’t disappointed at all! But I bet anybody in the audience with a good, slick, sophisticated and intelligent cabaret show ready to go will be wondering WHAT THE HELL DO WE NEED TO DO TO GET A SIMILAR TOUR UP?! 

 

If Meow Meow is the Queen of Cabaret in this country (and she must be), why aren’t more artists aspiring to be like her? And by “be like her” I simply mean writing and producing cabaret shows that are slick, sophisticated, intelligent, funny and completely gorgeous. (I’ve seen a few lately that could do with the hype that comes with TrAshley, but deservedly so). Meow Meow’s shows are the best parties in town. Let’s have more of those.

 

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