Of all the wonderful impressions and thoughts sifting through your brain after watching Fat Swan, the word 'subtle' certainly isn't one of them.
Everything about Fat Swan - from the dance steps, through the characters, the one-liners and double entendres, to the essential parody of a certain block-buster movie - is in-your-face, colourful and, well, larger than life. After a sell-out season earlier this year at the Spiegeltent and the marketing blurb warning that the adults-only panto is camp, even crass, it's fair to say that the audience comes prepared. The show also starts with the repeat of the R-rating; as a disembodied voice lists all the elements that could possibly offend viewers - drug use, foul language, simulated sex scenes, non-simulated sex, gay marriage - the crowd cheers increasingly louder.
Then comes the actual storyline: Trevor Ashley (Hairspray, Priscilla) stars as Natalie Portly, a naïve ingénue ballet student with an eating disorder who must overcome all sorts of human obstacles to reach her dancing goal - the lead role in Swine Lake.
First there's her frustrated, psychotic mother (brilliantly overplayed by Genevieve Lemon, fresh from a two-year stint in Billy Elliot on the West End), then there's the lustful choreographer (strutted by the beautifully sculpted TV landscaper Brendan Moar), who has plans involving Natalie and his casting couch; and then there's her rival, 'bestie' and understudy, the lesbian Milla Kuntz, who also has designs on Natalie's cherry when she's not trying to steal her role (played by Danielle Barnes, who also plays the wonderfully washed-up Winona Writoff).
Will she find her dark side to convey the Black Swine? What secrets are driving Winona Writoff to drink? Which suitor will win her heart? Will she ever eat a meal before her mother throws it in the bin? And how many anus jokes can an audience take?
As a true panto, there is plenty of audience participation, with unfortunate victims dragged on stage to perform undignified stunts, and loads of running gags and mock asides to the crowd. But the cast are just as willing to make fools of themselves, so it's all received in the right spirit. Certainly there's plenty to laugh at. The gags and ad libs might be scripted and rehearsed, but they are delivered with the dry wit and natural hilarity of a private performance, channelling elements of Priscilla, Strictly Ballroom and Muriel's Wedding. There are a few occasions when it all gets a wee bit too much; the jokes are a tad too anal and the references a bit too in-house or stereotyped. But, for all the silliness, there is enough genuine talent flying around the stage - and at a fast enough pace - that the next laugh, or song, or dance routine will whisk you away and you'll soon forget.
Showqueen Productions in association with Working Management present
by Phil Scott
Venue: Fairfax Studio| Arts Centre Melbourne
Dates: Until October 6, 2012
Bookings: 1300 182 183