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Review: Cherry at The Loading Dock Theatre

Review by Grace Swadling

Picture this; it’s 2008 on a Saturday morning, Rage is on the TV, eyeliner under your eyes is trending, the posters on your walls are of Zac Efron (HSM 3 specifically, duh) and Katy Perryhas just released her iconic and controversial song ‘I Kissed a Girl’. This is the world Sarah Carroll invites her audience into with ‘Cherry’ - “an intimate, bubblegum, pop journey from fangirl Sarah’s awkward teenage years, to discovering the power of Katy Perry’s music, to ultimately becoming a confident, bisexual woman.” 

Created by Sarah Carroll with dramaturgy by Nadia Townsend, ‘Cherry’ is a love letter to nostalgia, fan-girls and our younger selves who loved obsessively and unashamedly…but also our adult selves, who have come out the other side.  It is a fun-filled, mostly autobiographical rollercoaster through Caroll’s life; full of bubblegum pop diva moments and awkward adolescence whilst also peppered with moments of depth and vulnerability.  The power of ‘Cherry’ comes from Carroll’s relatability and charming exuberance centered around her love for Katy Perry, which may not be a universal experience but one which taps into a part of growing up many can relate to.

Carroll exudes energy and enthusiasm from the minute the house is open. Her ability to ad-lib and riff with the audience created a lovely relationship that invited participation and active engagement with the story. ‘Cherry’ is almost part-stand up, part-pop concert and Carroll's playful interjections and her ability to improvise combined with the musical elements was a highlight, emphasising her versatility and strengths as a performer. Although there were a few technical difficulties on the night which created a slightly un-polished feel, there was always a spirit of fun and playfulness in the theatre which made the show feel exciting - the spritzing of a literal bubblegum scent which then lingered in the theatre was also a nice touch.

The Loading Dock Theatre was the perfect space to mount this production - the intimacy of the space allowed us as audience to connect immediately to the artist whilst the tiered seating provided a perfect opportunity for Carroll to experiment with the space. When her younger self goes to Katy’s concert for the first time, we got to viscerally experience that all too familiar ascent to the nosebleed seats. The colorful lighting also worked wonderfully in this space and this, combined with Marissa Saroca’s sound design, served to highlight both the emotional high and low-points of the show. 

In terms of storytelling, the arc of the story at times could have been sped up - we spent a lot of time with the young Sarah and I would have loved to see her older self more. Similarly the transition into her older self could have been more clearly defined as a new ‘chapter’ for her as an adult and as a fan. Even so, it was lovely to watch the young Sarah shed her self-doubts and insecurities and eventually end up embracing her bisexuality (this was only slightly undermined by an off-hand comment from the performer but I guess we’ll have to wait to see her next one-woman show to explore that)!

At the end of the day, ‘Cherry’ was full of heart and kudos to Carroll - if you can get your audience to get emotional over you hugging a cardboard cutout of Katy Perry, you know you’ve done something right. ‘Cherry’ was presented at Qtopia as part of their inaugural Pride Fest and I would urge you to check out any of the remaining shows - the space is utterly fantastic (finally a black box theatre with comfortable seats!!) and what a wonderful thing it is to be able to support Queer theatre and emerging Australian artists!

Image Credit: Bojan Bozic


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