Don’s drag party

Managing Carmen (HIT Productions)

Gardens Theatre

July 18 – 19

ALF is a tough game, a rough game, a fast game. And at 23, Brent Lyall (Jamieson Caldwell) is its brightest star. As a two-time Brownlow medalist, his name is known by everyone in Melbourne. But this club captain and cash cow has a secret; he likes to cross dress as Carmen (aka Carmen Getit). He likes the way he looks and he likes the way it feels. But, as the audience is repeatedly reminded, he’s not gay, isn’t transsexual and doesn’t want to be a woman.

Enter his manager-funded financially-ambitious trophy girlfriend (Annie Last) and an old-school, relentless sleazy sports journalist (Trent Baker) and the stage is set for drama, comedy and some fabulous frocks, in accordance with the long theatrical traditions of cross dressing and gender confusion. The result is a humorously predictable theatre experience that plays on the popular conventions and cultural psyche insights that make David Williamson’s works so popular.

And Williamson knows football. His hugely successful 1977 satire, “The Club” captured the macho world of Aussie Rules in its behind-the-scenes portrayal of the Collingwood Football Club. “Managing Carmen” still, unfortunately, contains two-dimensional characters. Brent’s agent Rohan (Brandon Burke) is throwback to “The Club” days and sports journalist Max is a stereotypical character of little depth. Brent, however, is somewhat refreshing in his intelligence and introspection; he likes to watch documentaries and prefers self-obsessed girlfriends who won’t always be asking what he’s thinking.

Managing Carmen (3)

And this is Brent’s story. A big brother style image of his face as backdrop dominates the entire production. Caldwell gives an excellent, accessible performance as Brent, even if his portrayal of alter-ego Carmen sometimes ventures into Chris Lilley, “Ja’me: Private School Girl” territory.

This is a show typical in Williamson style and tone, even if it sometimes slips into slapstick. Beyond the comic fodder of Brent’s revelation and its subsequent management, this is a story about gender and sexual politics, the cult of celebrity and the nature of addiction.

Managing Carmen (1)

Although transitions are smooth, the numerous short scenes, particularly during Act One, do little to aid in the development of comic momentum. At two acts of approximately 50 minutes each, it is a palatable length and a good night out courtesy of one of Australia’s most prolific and produced playwrights, even if, in many ways, it lacks the witty, sharp dialogue and keen observations that typically personify his work.

Photos c/o – https://www.facebook.com/ManagingCarmen

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