Tango Femme | Wishing Well ProductionsLeft - Rhyannon Grace & Ruth Katerelos. Cover (l-r) - Ruth Katerelos, Eloise Maree, Kristen Adriaan, Rhyannon Grace, Flame Acacia Kimbell & Niki Pidd. Photos - Sian Edwards.

Who could possibly save the failing Golden Apple Ballroom Dancing Studio and its fearless femme leader Helen from ruin? The answer is Lannie Paris, the menopausal librarian who stumbles upon the same-sex studio, mistaken for a brothel that clearly has no time for men. Its mantra – if women lead on the dance floor, it would change everything.

It is obvious that Tango Femme is a personal creation of heart and passion. Portraying the best of lesbian stereotypes and clothed in intimacy of amateur ballroom dance numbers, Tango Femme shows that even if you can’t win the Queer Dancesports competition, there is no shame in trying. The overall direction is clear, but rather than keeping the pace and momentum of a jive, Tango Femme unfortunately slows down to a slightly sluggish and over danced waltz.

Each actor is given the time and the space to create the mood and build the characters, but at the expense of keeping the pace lively. Much of the show's 90 minutes is spent in amateur dancing, and watching the cast dance with the same passion and skill as my Aunt Hilda on valium is amusing and endearing for the first ten minutes. After this time, unfortunately, it detracts from the cast and the story-line.

Much of the serious drama is portrayed by a door slam or fifty. A little less door banging and more witty one liners depicting the characters’ angry tantrums would have served the play well (and left the audience with better hearing). Differences in the experience of the cast become more obvious and jokes become lost or miss their mark completely. Lannie’s character as a menopausal librarian was bookishly sexy and offered some of the funnier elements of the play. She also shares one of the more intimate and sensual scenes with the charming but trodden-on Gertrude (Kristen Adriaan).

Tango Femme does not set out to be the Strictly Ballroom of the gay world, although Lannie’s character is reminiscent of the clumsy and plain Fran. If you enjoy a little bit of ballroom (you may even join in at the end) and are tempted by the beginner-level tango then Tango Femme just might be for you. If you’re a librarian, menopausal or like your humour and drama to be edgy and confrontational then Tango Femme is strictly not on the ball.

Despite these issues, the ending of Tango Femme makes the 90 minute wait worthwhile. That is the one part of the play that successfully combines humour with the crazy intricacies of lesbian relationships and families.

Wishing Well Productions present
Tango Femme
by Merrilee Moss

Directed by Brenda Addie

Venue: La Mama Courthouse | 349 Drummond St, Carlton
Dates: Tues Jan 18 – Sun Feb 6, 2011
Times: Tues Jan 18 at 6.30pm, then Wed & Sun at 6.30pm, Thu - Sat at 8.00pm
Duration: 90 mins approx.
Tickets: $25 / $15
Bookings: 9347 6142 | lamama.com.au

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