Triple X (Queensland Theatre)
Queensland Theatre, Bille Brown Theatre
March 6 – April 1
“Triple X” is the brand-new Australian story and world premiere that audiences have been waiting a year for, given that the co-production between Queensland Theatre and Sydney Theatre Company made it only to a second preview performance before being devastatingly shut down due to COVID-19 in 2020. And the anti-romance is most definitely been worth the wait. The funny play is an honest and moving love story that is both powerful in the way it reflects society back to us, but incredibly entertaining in its unprecedented storytelling about love in the 21st century.
Scotty (Josh McConville) is living the dream. A successful Wall Street banker, he is about to marry his beautiful and very rich girlfriend. On the eve of their wedding, his family descends of his recently purchased multi-million dollar Tribeca loft. While the philosophical differences between Scott, his just-returned-from-Nepal socially-conscious lesbian sister Claire (Contessa Treffone in a Queensland Theatre debut) and his straight-out-of-Kentucky conservative mother Deborah (the multi award winning Christen O’Leary) are clear, this conflict is just beginning. Behind the brash excess of the ‘player’ masculine veneer he bounces off his friend Jase (Elijah Williams), Scotty is really existing in internally-conflicted quiet desperation, wondering what he is doing with his life. As an audience, we come to realise this through flashbacks to his months beforehand initial interaction and then ongoing affair with charismatic trans drag performer Dexie (Glace Chase), a self-proclaimed typical stop on men’s journey to their destination sexuality.
Just as Lady Gaga synopsised, Scotty and Dexi are soon caught in a bad (but raunchy) romance, reflection on which causes Act Two to pivot in its flashbacks, including explanation of why Deborah is triggered into an out-of-nowhere rant in Act One. With his secret on his mind, Scotty must make a choice between the comfort of familiarity and the fulfilment of a future he never envisioned.
Not only is this vital work a unique story, but it is told from the unique perspective of its straight male protagonist. And McConville is excellent in the role of Scotty, giving a performance that reflects that different layers of his character as he makes sense of the attraction he and Dexi share and then navigates their resulting out-of-bounds love affair. It is playwright, Glace Chase (who is originally from Australia but left almost a decade ago for New York) however, who not only gives audiences the first Australian mainstage love story involving a transgender person, but also a phenomenal performance. Chase is magnetic as the candid Dexi, bold but vulnerable and funny, except when trying to be on stage in her club act. She is likeable and genuine and someone you want in your orbit. Indeed, she and Scotty are both presented as very real characters, complex in their multi-dimensions, sometimes unpleasant but always identifiable through their inner conflicts, which makes the show’s laid-bare moments so emotionally affecting. O’Leary, too, gifts Scotty’s mum a familiar authenticity as she expresses everything she is thinking, continuing with conversations when others have moved on and assuming an apparent ignorance-is-bliss acceptance of convenient explanations that align with her own wants.
Designer Renee Mulder has provided a stylish split level set to authentically locate the action in Scotty’s home and flashback transitions are all smooth. In fact, the whole experience is well-paced, including its insertion of Dexi’s Candyland club performance as part of transitions between present and flashback scenes. Rather than existing merely as filler, these offer an additional perspective as to the truth of her character as her adorable awkwardness of often not quite nailing it only enhances our favour.
The production is filled with carefully-curated attentions to detail, down to the level of the strangest of interval song versions, whose meanings becomes clear when we return to Dexi’s club act soon after. Its outstanding script also sees themes of toxic masculinity, societal expectations, gender politics and love intricately woven together. Indeed, multitalented and multiple award-winning playwright Chase’s clever, honest writing takes us from absolutely hilarity courtesy of O’Leary’s physical comedy of alarm to shocking and sad moments that audibly reverberate around the audience, all within the duration of only just a few scenes.
“Triple X” comes with a list of warnings; it contains blackouts and the use of herbal cigarettes, but also frequent strong language, nudity, adult themes including domestic violence and references to suicide, drug use, sexual references and sex scenes. And the production’s Intimacy and Fight Director Nigel Poulton’s hand hoovers over many sections. Under Paige Rattray’s direction, however, things never sit too long in the story’s trauma. Rather, the thematic focuses are balanced and the audience is left with a lasting message of the importance of focussing on hope, although the work does include transphobic language and acts of violence that may be triggering for some audience members.
“Triple X” may be severe in some of its themes, but it is also a dynamic and hysterically funny story, meaning that its 2 hours and 30 minutes’ duration (including a 20-minute interval) seems to fly by in what feels like the shortest of time. Its honest commentary on the complicated issues of gender and sexuality may initially appear to make it a show not for the light-hearted, however, the spring of its opening night audience to their feet in standing ovation for three curtain calls ongoing even as the house lights came on, shows how it is about so much more than this. Wickedly funny, moving and provocative, this is excellent theatre which appropriately had its opening night audience raving and which theatregoers everywhere should see.
Photos c/o – Brett Boardman