By Rosie Niven
Wrapped in a glamorous fringe dress and armed with punchy jokes and songs, Charity Werk has landed at the Factory Theatre for the Sydney Fringe Festival after successful and sold-out runs at the Melbourne Fringe and the Brisbane Comedy Festival. Described as a “love letter to the LGBT community”, Charity brings us 60 minutes of stand up, songs, cabaret and drag, all the while taking us through what it means to be a “homosexual clad in lace in 2019”.
Community Service is Charity Werk’s debut solo show, and after being received so well in her hometown, she admits to the audience that she was really nervous to bring it to Sydney. After all, her fan base is in Melbourne. But the audience come ready to laugh along with the sassy drag queen and share in her personal anecdotes. What makes this performance so unique is the fact that Charity is a drag queen, but very rarely references the fact that she is. She is simply a comedian, that happens to be in drag.
Throughout the 60-minute performance, Charity breaks into thoughtful reimaginings of popular songs, twisting the words to create a soundtrack for her life story. From a beautiful rendition of Man in the Mirror about embracing your feminine side to a hilarious version of Can’t Keep My Hands to Myself about an encounter with a bigot outside a church, Charity engages with the audience on a personal level and creates an incredibly enjoyable way to digest her comedy.
While the show stepped into some more serious and personal material than one would typically expect from a Sydney Comedy Festival show (and a drag comedy show), I found that Charity was in fact establishing a more personal connection with the audience. By sacrificing the continuity of chuckles, she instead gave us a deeper sense of relatability than most would have with the assumed pure showmanship associated with many drag performers.
While much of Community Service was engaging and enjoyable, there seemed to be an underlying sense of stage fright in Charity’s performance. Although her personality boomed, her demeanour felt quite restrained. Perhaps this is because of the nerves of a Sydney audience, or perhaps it simply came down to feeling restricted in such an intimate space (the tiny venue leaves no room to breathe), but it highlighted a disconnect between the emotional and physical volume of the set.
It’s time for Charity to give back, and give back she does. Community Service is a touching exploration of growing up as a queer person, and gives an honest look at how we finally come into ourselves. As a queer woman, I found myself laughing along with each relatable moment (and there were so many), especially with the sharp wit that many of her songs were filled with. It’s hard not to dance along, and once you’d got the hang of her lyrics, it was hard not to sing along too. Sign me up for community service!
All opinions and thoughts expressed within reviews on Theatre Travels are those of the writer and not of the company at large.