Fourthcoming for more

Fourthcoming (shake & stir theatre company) 

QPAC, Cremorne Theatre

October 23 – November 7

Shake and Stir’s “Fourthcoming” is one of the funniest shows Brisbane has seen given its avalanche of non-stop laugh-until-you-cry moments. The sexy new contemporary romantic comedy is very adults-only, taking things in a different direction for the company, whose typical fare is transformation of classics of the page to stage.

It may be Joel Devereaux’s images of Johnny Balbuziente that appear most prominently on the show’s posters, (obviously taking advantage of his recent “Married at First Sight” fame), but it is really professional trivia host Gwen’s (Cece Peters) story, and what a refreshingly honest take of female desire and sexual expression it is. Things start with a sexy bang in Gwen’s bed before the choose-your-own-adventure story places the course of the narrative in the audience’s hands as they use phones to vote in real time to help the protagonist make choices on each date and about her final decision as to who she will see for a second date from four suitors. Enter Balbuziente who alternates between the four distinct options at Gwen’s disposal: sensitive literary-type and thespian Sebastian, adorable but inexperienced Aaron, forthright Franco and sexy Sandy.

With modern dating at the core of its narrative, the relevance of “Fourthcoming” is clear from the outset, given the digital dependence of modern life, especially during times of lockdown et al, but there is also a careful attention to detail that leads to appreciated topical additions to Nelle Lee’s writing, such as mention of this week’s weather, booster dose dialogue and alike. And the fact that the audience determines its plotlines through use of their phones, only makes its cleverness complete.

The demands of a two hander are amplified by the unpredictability that comes from its multiple possible narrative threads and Peters and Balbuziente handle the show’s challenges with ease. Peters makes Gwen real, relatable and charming in her every-girl quirkiness. And she plays a hilarious, all-too-real overly emotional drunk. Balbuziente’s versatility is particularly impressive as he brings nuance to each of his different characters. While at their core, they are each a stereotype of sorts, he manages to find an inner truth and vulnerability in each one, even bringing a bit of humanity to conspiracy theorist Franco.

Creatively, the show is visually stunning and adrenaline-filled by a soundscape of Salt-N-Pepa type sexiness. Everything is dynamic from Jason Glenwright’s lighting design to Guy Webster’s sound design. And Craig Wilkinson’s video design both allows things to move along even when performers are off stage and transports us into the unique locations of each of Gwen’s dates, from a Mexican restaurant, to a mini-golf game, sip and paint session and a cultural art gallery outing that turns spicy courtesy of a sexy exhibition. The hyper real feel of its aesthetic is not only engaging, but fits perfectly with its digital themes.

Under Nelle Lee and Nick Skubij’s efficient co-direction, things move quickly as its ultimately uplifting story surfs the audience along on wave after wave of laughter. And its unpredictability adds an extra level of excitement. With an increasingly sassy Siri aiding Gwen’s navigation of daily life and some hysterical voice work from Leon Cain and Barbara Lowing, the hilarity never stops, leaving audience faces aching from the laughter. As promised in its program, this reality-theatre experience is entertaining with a capital E for escapism, enlightenment and enjoyment, that will leave you wanting to come again, multiple times for more.  

Photos c/o – David Fell