Big Screen, Small Queen (Everything I Didn’t Learn At Film School) - KXT Kings Cross (NSW)
Written and performed by Etcetera Etcetera, presented by Fruit Box Theatre during Sydney WorldPride in association with bAKEHOUSE Theatre Company.
Review by Caitlin A. Kearney World premiere 11th-23rd February KXT Kings Cross, KX Hotel Tickets: https://www.fruitboxtheatre.com.au/big-screen-small-queen
- Etcetera Etcetera shows their multitalented skills in a production that is at war with its genre and form -
The objectively beautiful silhouette of nonbinary drag artist Etcetera Etcetera glides into the space, flanked by two striking dancers. There follows a proper confection of an opening performance complimented by gorgeously designed lighting (Aron Murray) and a large camera throwing a live feed (Matthew Miceli Photography) of the performers onto the wall behind them. Appetite whet.
Kings Cross Theatre’s original home venue is versatile- capable of surprising feats of theatrical transformation for the second floor of an old pub. It would almost stand to reason that a piece merging solo theatre memoir with traditional drag performance to create something transdisciplinary should naturally generate an audience response that compliments both forms, if done artfully. In actual fact, the tone of the lip syncs was so different to that of the monologues that audience members felt at odds with one another over how to respond between musical numbers and scenes from cinema history.
Photo Credit Mathew Miceli Photography
The easy, freely vocalised expressions of glee from the whole room at the fun of the sharp dancing, the requisite face-pulling and the delicious costuming was mostly hastily put back in the bottle at the moment each monologue arrived. I say “mostly” because total silent consensus about this being the appropriate course was not reached; there was a sense of awkward tension created by one group’s insistent audience commentary. One has to wonder if a script delivered with as much conviction by the artist as the lip syncs would have been as conducive to the confusion caused.
Usually, a drag show welcomes a certain degree of audience participation. The (largely) unspoken protocols for scripted theatre are often quite different. It’s possible there is a larger conversation to be had about how much responsibility to set the audience’s expectations for the rules of engagement lies with the performer and the way they deliver the work. Regardless, this is important, as the manner in which we engage with a live piece alters the nature of the piece itself and in turn changes our experience of it in a constantly volleying conversation essential to the artform that is live performance.
As it stands, the merits of Etcetera Etcetera’s quiet humour are best revealed in the lip syncs, which makes obvious sense- this is their bread and butter, as they actively point out by illustrating just how much time they spent in bars and clubs during the period they were meant to be studying for film school. The pleasing Australian-ness that shines through in Etcetera’s specific brand of casual camp is the sort of thing that elicits regular shouts of laughter and bursts of mid-number applause, and it is frustrating that this strong understanding of genre and audience appetite did not translate to a robustly written or performed text. I am not in doubt that Etcetera can write a joke or that they truly desire to show vulnerability, but in a piece that champions self belief and personal truth, I would have liked to have witnessed a more consistent passion burning.
...an irreverent homage to the sacredness of drag in Etcetera Etcetera’s life
The monologues felt distinctly low-energy in comparison to the lip syncs. They also lacked pacing and, at times, narrative direction. This wasn’t a show about film school so much as it was a collection of tasty smaller performances loosely strung together by the discovery of a diary kept during time spent at film school. The show doesn’t quite match its advertised outline- I left wanting to know so much more based on what I had been told to expect; how was Etcetera’s dual life received by their peers at film school? What role did film school play in their journey to better understanding their experience of gender (brief mention of the Hays Code did not approach an answer to this question)? What was the relevance of them making brief reference to a topic so big-ticket and engaging they had difficulty maintaining romantic relationships during that time? I had come to hear a story.
I can always appreciate the message that creatives ought to play in the sandpit that most makes them happy rather than aspiring to succeed at something “big and serious” in the pursuit of professional fulfillment. This message, at least, rang clear throughout in an irreverent homage to the sacredness of drag in Etcetera Etcetera’s life.
A One Woman Show by Etcetera Etcetera
11 February - 23 February 2023
Presented by Fruit Box Theatre during Sydney WorldPride in association with bAKEHOUSE Theatre Company.
Etcetera Etcetera CREATOR & PERFORMER
Carter Rickard CHOREOGRAPHER & DANCER
Jack Williams DANCER
Madeleine Gandhi PRODUCER
Sean Landis PRODUCER
Millsya Theda ASSISTANT PRODUCER
Matthew Miceli AV
Soham Apte SET DESIGNER
Alex Bryant STAGE MANAGER
Aron Murray LIGHTING DESIGNER
Erin Caroll COSTUME DESIGNER