Review: Double Bill @ KXT (Misc & Tough Titties)

Review by James Ong


Panimo Pandemonium has taken over KXT this month, bringing with it a spotlight to showcase the best and brightest of Sydney’s emerging performance artists. My chosen night saw a double bill of works that appear quite distinct on the surface, yet a heartbreaking through line became clear when it came time to close the curtains. Part one of the evening was the 60min play, Misc - written and performed by Sophie Teo and Dominique Purdue. Misc follows two aspiring actresses as they run the audition loop and bond over the strange, underhanded ways the industry frames and exploits their half-Asian backgrounds. The concept is naturally quite close to this humble half-Asian’s heart, and it’s a crushingly nuanced portrayal of how we of blended background can be simultaneously cherished for our quota-filling abilities and ostracised for our inconvenient need to be treated as equals to our more easily-categorised peers. Our main characters Bea and Jasmine battle with the uniformity they see in the world around them; a homogeneity of two sorts and two standards. One sort has all ‘standard’ roles limited to a beach-bum aesthetic, sorely lacking in melanin, while the other sees every ‘othered’ race lumped together. It’s a criteria that is very familiar to most people who work in the system, yet the harsh emotional toll is fairly un-nuanced in other stories that cover working actors today. Misc excels in this respect, with our charming duo critical of both the system, yet unable to abstain from the actions that hurt them. An extended spat between the two brings forth long-buried feelings of ostracism from both ends of your apparent racial spectrum - in simpler terms: you’re not white enough and you’re not POC enough to ever tick either of the aforementioned boxes. The biggest tragedy of all is that the competitive nature of the audition circuit drives the two criticise and (somewhat darkly) out-Asian the other. Bea justifies her Asian-ness through an arguably unhealthy obsession with K-Pop and K-Dramas (amongst various other K-Media I’m sure), while Jasmine is forced to justify her status as a legitimate Asian by recounting the judgement and abuse she received growing up in a school environment that definitely did not share the same genetic diversity as her family. Director Eric Jiang presents us with an industry that loves to fill holes with pigeon, and will do its damndest to marginalise minorities without being directly visible in its racism. This brutal depiction of the entertainment industry as the commerce of ethnic representation is a powerful reflection of how the non-cookie cutter actors of today are subject to a death-by-thousand-cuts (or microagressions). The second act in the Double Bill for the night comes in Tough Titties - a snappy 90min variety show that aims to highlight the nature of gender inequality through a barrage of satire, parody and outright absurdity. Skits become increasingly outlandish over the 90 minute runtime, though the authenticity on display is never lost. Revues, by nature, tend to keep things lighthearted, but the sinister undertones of how women are treated and pitted against each other in the world today shines through. Indeed it is absurd how more than half of our population is pushed to exist in such clownish paradigms, and the revolt against these walls drives a palpable and vocal response from the audience at every turn. A refreshing twist on the format comes in the ‘storytelling’ segments - one-woman acts that range from original character monologues and stand up comedy, to poetry slams and a strikingly authentic motivational speech. Though certain skits seem a touch underdone - the sheer volume of content and enthusiasm of the cast means that the next cracker is never far off. Unfortunately, I can’t highlight all 10 performer within the confines of this review, but I would be remiss if I didn’t mention some particularly bright moments that come through in Airlie Benson’s solo set and the multitude of wacky roles taken on by Luisa Galloway and Georgia Hooper, who all had the audience rapt in their respective scenes. For those who haven’t pieced the through line together, the Double Bill of Misc and Tough Titties holds the core understanding that our male-centric society works on breaking women down into their component parts and re-assembling them into an image that best suits profit. Despite this somewhat dire situation, there is nonetheless a sense of celebration at hand in both shows, that pleads audiences to embrace their true identities and proclaim it from the rooftops.

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