30 January 2008

Coles Girls

Coles Girls
Michael Lindner and David Gauci
24 January2008
Northcote Town Hall

Cole’s Girls is laugh ‘til it hurts stuff. Sometimes it hurts because it’s just so wrong, sometimes it hurts because it’s little bit close to home and sometimes it hurts because you haven’t had time to draw a breath between jokes. Satirical, crude and just damn hilarious; these cheap drag scrags are as special as the Boxing Day sales with an unlimited credit card.

Meet Leesa Allopecia and Lysa Nads. Leesa knows she’s large framed, but why should she care when she works with her best friend and has the achievable dream of stroking Johns Wood’s Logie. Lysa yearns for a pearl necklace that doesn’t wipe away and is worried about the possible consequences of waking up one morning in a sperm donor clinic. Their jobs aren’t glamorous, but they have each other and the ongoing inspiration of Lisa Mclune. Like Lisa their careers started with a supermarket. Lisa went on to Aussie TV fame after being the advertising face of Coles. Leesa and Lysa are still scanning at the checkout, but they have dreams and Aussie TV is always looking for new reality show contestants.

Nothing is sacred in this show. Good satire reflects a thorough knowledge of your targets. These girls know Cole Porter, musical theatre, supermarkets, outer suburbs, Centrelink, reality TV, lost Aussie soaps and everything that is, was and ever shall be the cult of being an Aussie starlet (and there are one or two gay references).

If you don’t remember Arcade or Chances, there’s a generous combination of wit, word play and innuendo to keep anyone smiling. Now add the music of Cole Porter, a pianist and a couple of dancers. Cole’s Girls may be the definitive Bogan musical. Naturally “Love For Sale” opens the show. Cole may be cringing from beyond with what they’ve done to the lyrics, but I’m sure he’s wishing he could have had this much fun.

Under the muff, hole and 69 jokes Michael Lindner and David Gauci have developed an original, local and relevant work. What takes Cole’s Girls beyond a series of drag sketches is the complex characters, drama and well structured and balanced story (Yes, I am actually sticking to my belief that these things matter. I just hope I’m not being too sophisticated for the readers…..)

It’s hard not to compare Cole’s Girls to Little Britain. It’s by no means derivative of the British sketch show, but if you love the Britain boys, you shouldn’t miss the Cole’s girls. I’m not sure why men dressing up as women can be so funny (as it can also be pretty offensive). Perhaps it’s because there is more distance between the actor and the character. Would Dame Edna be so fabulous if Barry was really Betty?

Drag aside; the humour works because the characters aren’t that far from reality. Take away the jokes and the extremity and what’s left is a world that is raw, honest and a bit sad. This is what makes great humour so good. David Brent, Basil Fawlty, Eddy and Patsy, Kath and Kim. If we didn’t know people just like them, they would never be so funny. If we didn’t see just a bit of ourselves in Leesa and Lysa, we may not laugh so hard.

This is Cole’s Girls second Melbourne season. It’s now much tighter and deserves to be seen widely. And the closing line is as brilliant as the film it references.

This review originally appeared on AussieTheatre.com.

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