30 March 2018

MICF: Romeo is not the only fruit

Romeo is not the only fruit
The Furies, Jean Tong & Stephanie-Bowie Liew
29 March 2018
Beckett Theatre
to 8 April
comedyfestival.com.au

Nisha Joseph, Louisa Wall, Pallavi Waghmode, Sasha Cheryllyn Chong, Margot Tanjutco

It's going to be hard to get tickets for Romeo is not the only fruit next week. So, book now. I know it's very early to call the must-see show of the festival, but if you miss this, you won't know why the rest of us are singing a song called "Fuck you".

Writer and director Jean Tong had me at the Jeanette Winterson reference.

This secures a certain section of the audience, but there's also atrocious reality tv shows (The Spinsterette), dumplings, soy sauce fish, vagina mime, more intertextual references than there are types of dumplings in Melbourne, and a chorus called the Incompetent Dead Lesbians. And sequins.

First seen – and loved – last year at the Butterfly Club as part of the Poppyseed Festival, Romeo is not the only fruit has developed in Fame-size leaps and has already been seen by more people than its first run. It proves how important small stages and and small festivals are for developing new work; shows need to be seen before they can take over the world. And it proves that seeing independent and new work at any festival sometimes gives you bragging rights of seeing first productions.

Juliet (Margot Tanjutco) lives in fairish Verona with her mother and grandmother, and has an unseen  interfering chorus of guardian angels (Nisha Joseph, Pallavi Waghmode, Sasha Cheryllyn Chong). Mum and G-Ma want Juliet to breed the next generation and encourage her to accept a nice boy, even if he can't cook rice, and to give up her dream of being a pilot and flying into the high blue. When tall, blue-eyed Darcy (Louisa Wall) moves into the street, Juliet invites her home to dinner. G-Ma welomes Darcy by offering white bread and butter (white people are unusual in Verona; "We are so not racist" may push Avenue Q's "Everyone's a little bit racist" off the top of the best-music-theatre-songs-about-racism list) but the angels don't care about the food because they know what happens in popular culture when two women fall in love...

They die. The lesbians always die.

"Why, why, why, do the lesbians always die?". (Can we please have the soundtrack album with James Gales's music and Tong's lyrics.)

This show tears open the love tropes of mainstream stories. Especially the one that difficult lovers – like queer women – are conveniently removed by death. Darcy's already lost a couple of girlfriends and the angels met their deaths by daring to be in love. One angel has a quilt remembering all the dead pop-culture lesbians – she's filled one side and the other is almost full.

Do these star-crossed lovers overcome canons of expectation? And poison?

That'd be telling.

Does Romeo is not the only fruit subvert every boring expectation of love stories to be the most joyous fuck you to everything that deserves a fuck you?

Yes.

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