Simply put, I never get to use “trashy” as an honorific. Trashy or tacky or flashy. Until now. Here we go … THE BODYBAG. It’s playing at the Sydney Opera House and kneel before me Trevor Ashley and cast as I dub your production deliciously trashy, graciously garish, faaabulously flashy and expertly tacky. THE BODYBAG, which has nothing to do with, or endorsed by, any other famous work of art or cinema or television etc, is all this and more. The more is an elegance of craft, skill and talent but that’s boring, let’s talk about the meretricious.
Rachael Marinade (yep … it starts here) is famous, washed up yet adored and in some kind of danger from a fanatic, stalkery, glue stick using, obsessive who keeps sending her laboriously letter cut threat letters. Enter Tank (yep…ok) who will come to provide close, seriously close, protective UBER support. Add a cast of thousands played by her backup dancer, a jealous sister, Nikki, and a child of indeterminate persuasion and you have 5 players who act and sing and dance the hell out of what is called The Panto in the advertising.
And it sure is a mix of styles and theatrical forms. “He’s behind you” makes a brief appearance before a considerably more sweary alert phrase is exhorted from us by our host, Trevor Ashley as Rachael. This is drag assuredly but not as we know it. The old routines, like a bit with swivel chairs, might be fun to re-live anew but this is cabaret honed to a mirror shine in a sea of glitz and an excess of sequins.
All that spangles is gold here as Ashley commands, cajoles and charms his audience with a self-referential knowingness. Ashley is an equal opportunity employer of insults, Mia Freedman to Cardinal Pell, not many artists can reach out to an Opera House audience with “that was fucking pathetic” and still be adored. Adored for his embrace of the lost art of negligee wearing with wit and grace … and the voice … always the voice. A voice respected and standing in our seats when he really lets that puppy off the chain. Think, Impossible Dream. But then he can’t help himself and the tack attacks to drag proceedings back down to the gimcrack.
He has extraordinary help in his fellow cast. Gus Murray (Tank), Markesha McCoy (Nikki) , Heath Keating (most everyone else) & Nicholas Craddock (Robert/a) are as one with joy in the overdone. All are triple threats. The men replete in shirt straining and jock stretching gorgeousness. Craddock, the child, engagingly enthusiastic while being kept away from the insalubrious and McCoy with a killer set of pipes. The good will and ensemble feel screams across the footlights in a show that is fast paced with lots of costume changes and detail.
While waiting patiently for Murray in a Tuxedo, enjoy the shimmery set, well cued and vibrant lighting, great choreo, terrific orchestration behind and costumes of considerable architectural merit. Wish my girls were as supported as Ashley’s chicken fillets. And the gold and black number after interval … I can see me in that! Combine with some 90s hits that are perverted into hilarity. ‘There’s always a stalker in the pack’ to ‘I want to fuck with somebody’ with no in un-nuendoed and “tits and minge” ascendant.
Written by Trevor Ashley and Phil Scott; Choreography by Cameron Mitchell; Costumes by Angie White; Set & Lighting by Trent Suidgeest; Conceived & Directed by Trevor Ashley [Facebook] THE BODYBAG THE PANTO (Video promo) is playing until the 23rd of May.
But know this (there were mid first act escapees last night) approach the show with good will immersion. Oh and try not to see the art … one should never destroy the ah in vulgar.