Guilty Pleasures (Blue Saint Productions)
Brisbane Powerhouse, Visy Theatre
October 21 – 25
When Angelique Cassimatis sashays into the Visy Theatre, to deliver the song ‘Lucky Me’ her summer frock and buoyancy perhaps belie the stories to follow. In this first of five independent vignettes, she goes from happy 1920s newlywed to desperate housewife, increasingly resentful of a husband who has become a monster since working for the mob. Her bitter anger is obvious, both in her increasingly savage attack of vegetables with a kitchen knife and in the changed mood of the song and it is soon easy to see the show’s comparisons to “Chicago”. Indeed, it is a somewhat familiar formula as Cassimatis shares the stories of women driven to the act of extraordinary violence, breathing fresh life into the idea, however, as she twirls in and out of costumes and manoeuvres props about the space.
This is a physical show of dance, drama and song but also one that relies on Cassimatis superb characterisation of varied women (and some inset men). In every instance her precision timing and pitch perfect accents provide range and variety to characters as diverse as a Russian immigrant, Jewish wife and Chicago gangster. Although their stories are independent, they are emotionally linked in their desperation and loneliness and Cassimatis transitions easily from engaging vulnerability to shocking declarations (for not all characters are sympathetic) and witty engagement.
The band is certainly capable, opening the show with some appealing jazz, however, vocal levels are quite timid in its opening number, meaning that Cassimatis’s performance initially lacks the punch that her voice deserves. And apart from the opening ‘Lucky Me’ number, the songs are not particularly memorable. Ultimately, however, this does not detract from the overall effect of what is a complex artistic endeavour down to the finest of details. Lighting is used to effectively create setting as much as evoke emotion, detailed costumes have character of their own and staging is interesting and functional in its use of a variety of different-sized suitcases from which smaller props appear.
“Guilty Pleasures” is an initially enigmatic but ultimately appropriate name for a dark but deliciously enjoyable show. In its energetic exploration into ordinary life’s darker side, it is the type of show to grab rather than glide past you, memorable for its display of talent as much as its tension and twists. Cassimatis is a talented performer who makes this hour of musical mayhem and murder fly by in a shared journey of guilty giggles and shocked sighs of realisation.
Photos c/o – Mike “Smo” Snow Photography