Midsumma show F*ck Fabulous is exhilarating variety that celebrates every kind of queerness, says Anne-Marie Peard
The Fairfax stage is piled with a ceiling-high pyramid of coloured clothes. As an exquisite opera mezzo voice booms from within, the pyramid opens to reveal a silver-mirrored interior and Sarah Ward emerges as if from an exploding star, like the feminist queer superstar that she is.
Ok, so I might be exaggerating a bit, but that’s what it felt like.
We’ve waited a year for Fuck Fabulous – I’ll risk that the asterisk on the poster and tickets is a “u” – after its 2020 cancellation. Ward introduces the show, stepping outside her Yana Alana character for now, resplendent in a cardboard crown adorned with underwear and “Fuckin’ Queer” in glittery letters.
Including live music, circus, film, drag, clowning, poetry and dance, Fuck Fabulous is a variety protest show of every variety. It emerges from anger, frustration and trauma, but is expressed as joy. Out of chaos, confusion and a year of feeling a bit fucked, these queer-as-fuck artists make a theatre that’s still only at partial capacity feel like a community, and a community feel like Melbourne is ours again.
Removing her jacket, a bare breasted Ward effortlessly transitions to Joan Jett’s punk anthem “Bad Reputation”. I dare anyone to leave the theatre giving any damns about their reputations. Five tramps bouncing on mini trampolines in t-shirts emblazoned with DON’T RAPE and DON’T RAPE WOMEN is as furious as it is affirming. The message is so damn clear, but we still need to jump up and down to spell it out.
Celebrating inclusivity and diversity can trigger hurt, but its outrageous silliness can also be comforting. There’s a lot of utter silliness in this show. There’s Joe Noonan’s design of “all the clothes people buy and never wear because they don’t blend in with the crowd” that still leaves everyone looking like they chose their own costume. There are puns, in-jokes, slapstick and an onstage toilet – because toilets are always funny.
Dressed in an immaculate suit and fireworks-print shirt, Bec Mathews’ Madonna-inspired music video anthem (filmed by Chris Bennett) rhapsodises dapper cultural and political icons who wear brogues (brogues, brogues, brogues). Nicci Wilks wears a wig that’s bigger than she is, and has a voice bigger than her wig. She gyrates on a barbeque in a meat bikini because she isn’t a piece of meat.
Jess Love swings and swears on a trapeze in comfy cotton undies pulled up past her belly button. Gabi Barton makes hand sanitiser so sexy that it will be impossible to not secretly smile every time you squeeze a pump pack. Dale Woodbridge-Brown’s burlesque acrobatic drag clown is everything a burlesque acrobatic drag clown could be – and more. Seth Sladen contorts and flies in pink shorts. Glitter and Snatch dance and drum in shiny PVC and punch inflatable cocks. And KoKo Ma$$ reflects on the pain of adoption and identity, a pain that’s still commonly dismissed.
Some of the individual acts aren’t complete as stand-alone pieces, but there’s consistency in the inconsistency. The show has an air of the unexpected, which might be because the idea didn’t fit with a theme, or it isn’t what their audience expect, or is too exposing. All the same, every performer said “fuck it!” and made it for themselves. It mightn’t stand up to serious deconstruction, but this show comes from somewhere so personal and real that it sings its truth. And that is fabulous.
Fuck Fabulous celebrates the breadth of queer identity and the inclusiveness of feminist rage and love, after a year when we literally didn’t touch other people. It’s there in the floordrobe piles of clothes, the solo performances made in solitude, the jokes about cleaning, and the ongoing reminders that our bodies are not a source of shame and failure.
If a changed body is the worst result of lockdown, maybe that’s totally okay. There are many naked bodies in Fuck Fabulous, but there’s no sense of peek-a-boo sexualisation or “oops, it just fell out”. Naked bodies are not only seen – they are allowed to feel pleasure, even by themselves. In this world, there’s nothing frightening or offensive about fat, body shape, hair, getting old, being untucked – or looking like anything that isn’t your own body.
It’s so positive and affirming that you might go home, strip off and dance, or dream about bouncing naked through the streets on an orange inflatable hopper. Fuck yeah, it’s fabulous.
F*ck Fabulous, creative producer Sarah Ward, directorial eye Susie Dee, musical director Bec Matthews, designer Joe Noonan, lighting design Monique Aucher. Performed by Yana Alana (Sarah Ward), Jess Love, Dale Woodbridge-Brown, Nicci Wilks, Glitter and Snatch, Seth Sladen, Koko Ma$$, Gabi Barton and Bec Matthews. Midsumma Festival Fat Fruit at Fairfax Studio, Arts Centre Melbourne, as part of Midsumma Festival, until May 2. Bookings