A collection of five thematically similar but otherwise unrelated vignettes, the play is, broadly speaking, concerned with social, behavioural and especially sexual issues concerning today’s (heterosexual) young women. In spite of being promoted as “a must see for any Sex and the City fan”, the male perspective is not wholly absent, as the play is not only written by a man but also features prominent male characters in all three scenes utilising multiple roles.
Although the juxtaposition of two monologues with three micro-plays is a nice format, unfortunately the strength of these five different pieces was decidedly inconsistent. The monologues My Last G(string) and The Miseducation of Elissa both fell very flat, as did much of the first mini-play, Playtime in the Park. I by no means speak only for myself – the audience as a whole had a pretty chilly reaction to these pieces, whereas the third and fifth ones had them absolutely rolling in the aisles.
Perhaps part of the problem was that these monologues came across as oddly preachy: the first railing against the continued mainstream dominance of fairly anti-feminist grooming and dressing habits such as g-strings and Brazilian waxes, while the latter featuring a young woman (Emma Leonard) discussing the correlation between having no “daddy issues” and being too trusting of bastardly men upon reaching sexual (im)maturity. These pieces very much assumed a level of strong audience identification which, according to both my companion and judging by the unresponsive house, was by no means necessarily the case.
The opening monologue especially seemed to be designed to have the audience whooping and cheering their assent to the character’s sentiments, but instead it received quite a cool reception. I felt sorry for the actor Phoebe Leonard, who did an excellent job regardless. At the risk of sounding snide, both speeches rather struck me as being a “Poor Man’s (or Woman’s, I should say) Vagina Monologues”.
The first of the three mini-plays had similar problems, as two young women (Celia Bickmore-Hutt and Emma Leonard) of vastly divergent sexual experience and attitudes debate some rather hoary old chestnuts about how men can’t help being perverts and that women should learn to love it. Despite the explicit references and ostensibly modern sex-positive attitudes, it nevertheless seemed very old hat.
Strictly speaking, much the same could be said of the third item on the bill, Unprotected Sex, and yet it was by far the highlight of the show. While the premise of two footy-watching blokes nervously awaiting and then subsequently dealing with the Pill-induced mood-swings of one of their girlfriends might sound sexist in abstract, this piece as performed was comedic gold. Adam Cleland as the hapless boyfriend and Mitch Firth as his bemused mate form a stunning double-act as they wrestle with the hilariously extreme behavior of the hormone-addled girlfriend, played to scenery-chewing perfection by Megan Alston. Riddled with some wonderful performative subtlety amidst the volleys of blatant outrageousness, this excellent triple-hander is one of the most uproarious nuggets of theatre I’ve seen this year.
Although not nearly as side-splitting, the final tiny play The Nude Scene is also extremely funny in spite of, or perhaps partly due to, its repetitive nature. As a nervous actor (Lizzie Mitchell) prepares to shoot a topless scene on a no-budget art film for an up-and-coming director (the very funny Sebastian Goldspink), she brings along her much more confident, acerbic friend (Phoebe Leonard) to buck her up. Various gender issues get bandied around as take after take are ruined by various factors, driving the director, star (an oiled-up Mitch Firth) and his German cameraman (Adam Cleland, again hilarious) to desperation. Although very amusing this scene had a touch of the obviousness that troubled the earlier disappointing vignettes, as well as a rather flat and abrupt ending, but it was more than made up for by the preceding laughs.
Indeed these two shorts counterbalanced the other three weaker pieces, and redeemed the show as a whole. Great credit must go to the entire cast who were uniformly excellent and very game. Tightly directed by Byron Kaye, the production as a whole had terrific comic performances that were at times often far better than their material.
Angry Young Women In Low-Rise Jeans With High-Class Issues is a very funny show indeed, despite its awkward parts. If the opening-night audience response is anything to go by, it would be a great show for a bunch of girlfriends to see together, and there’s plenty for the lads to enjoy too.
Stella Green Productions presents
Angry Young Women In Low-Rise Jeans With High-Class Issues
A play by Matt Morillo
Venue: TAP Gallery 278 Palmer St, Darlinghurst
Previews: 14 & 15 August
Performances: 16 August - 2 September
Times: Tuesdays-Saturdays at 8pm, Sundays at 5pm
Tickets: $25/20, Cheap Tuesdays/previews $15
Bookings: www.mca-tix.com or 1300 306 776