French Letters and Leather Cleaner – KXT Theatre (NSW)
Written by Laurent Auclair. Presented by Fruit Box Theatre during Sydney World Pride at the Kings Cross Theatre.
Reviewed by Juliana Payne
Kings Cross Theatre, Level 2 Kings X Hotel Until 24th February, 2023 Tickets: https://events.humanitix.com/fruit-box-pride
- Go for the laughs, stay for Santi in this quintessentially "Sydney" production -
It was kind of good that KXT’s new building on Broadway wasn’t ready for this play – I mean if you’ve got a play set in an adult store, with enough ultrarealistic props to fill a real shop, then it’s got to be performed in Kings Cross. Plus, where else do you get to see a gorgeous salt ‘n’ pepper-haired leather guy swagger through the play, and wonder if he is an actor or had wandered upstairs from the bar by mistake?
The plot – a bunch of seeming misfits in a room, who all find themselves and each other by the end – is a common enough framing device but this one is uniquely Sydney and should find a welcoming and warm audience in its hometown. There’s laugh aloud comedy, lots of politics and tonnes of awareness raising, sprinkled with bittersweet moments of genuine emotion. Writer Laurent Auclair has so much to say that his words were tumbling over themselves to get it all out. He swung us on a pendulum from The Breakfast Club to Philadelphia and back again – several times!
Photo Credit Matthew Miceli Photography
There is literally an original love song included – you could imagine the anthemic Oxford Street being sung by the crowd in a stadium, hands held high or alternatively rendered to some sweaty thumping beats and strobe lights at 3am. It really could go viral as Santi in the play dreams of it doing – we just need Kylie to cover it at the Mardi Gras after party and bingo, instant hit.
The acting was often raw and awkward, but in a forgivable way. Many of the cast are very young and if they can make a living in this sector and stick to it, they will learn and develop. Marty Quinn as Andy, the ‘straight’ clueless white guy who copped the brunt of the satirical and admonitory tongue-lashings, somehow still managed to be innocently funny and charming in his transformation. Dennis Clements as Robbie brought genuine tears to his own and many of the audience’s eyes in his heartfelt tribute to long dead friends and lovers who suffered and died in the AIDS pandemic. Mat Oldaker as Santi – well what can I say – Oldaker simply stole the show and owned the space. Santi the drag queen who was just a little bit older than she’d like to be had all the lines, all the songs, and all the fun. See this play to watch this true performer at work, who is totally in touch with the audience and their character. With impeccable comic timing, an outrageous French accent and oodles of incomparable style, Santi is the gorgeous and very well-manicured rock upon which this show is built.
Lighting designer Aron Murray and sound designer Sam Cheng worked in harmony to create dramatic, surreal, or just plain absurd effects to highlight the comic action or the emotional drama – the play was full of classic executions of bathos - and the character of Santi was the maestro!
As Santi would say, may Whitney save you if you miss this enjoyable and quintessentially Mardi Gras show.
French Letters and Leather Cleaner
Previews: Fri 10 Feb 7.30 pm; Sat 11 Feb 7.30 pm; Sun 12 5.00 pm;
Week 2: Wed 15 Feb 7.30 pm; Fri 17 Feb 7.30 pm; Sat 18 Feb 7.30 pm; Sun 19 Feb 5.00 pm;
Week 3: Tues 21 Feb 7.30 pm; Wed 22 Feb 7.30 pm; Fri 24 Feb 7.30 pm
please note that this show plays at KXT in the X, Level 2 KX Hotel.
Laurent Auclair WRITER
Sean Landis DIRECTOR & EXECUTIVE PRODUCER
Emily Henderson PRODUCER
Madeleine Gandhi EXECUTIVE PRODUCER
Clay Crighton ASSISTANT DIRECTOR & PROPS
Soham Apte SET & COSTUME DESIGNER
Aron Murray LIGHTING DESIGNER
Sam Cheng SOUND DESIGNER
Rowan Brunt DRAMATURG
Alex Bryant STAGE MANAGER
Matthew Miceli AV
Sasha Landis INTIMACY COORDINATOR
CAST Robbie Wardhaugh KRIS
Dennis Clements ROBBIE
Mat Oldaker SANTI
Kayla-Rose De Sousa CHARMAINE
Marty Quinn ANDY