Review By Lauren Donikian
What do you get when you put a couple from the inner west, a drag queen, and an owner of an adult store together? A story about love, loss, and the family we choose for ourselves.
French Letters and Leather Cleaner is the latest production from Fruit Box Theatre; a non-profit that is committed to staging and developing original LGBTQIA+SB Theatre. Written by Laurent Auclair, French Letters and Leather Cleaner brings the queer story to the forefront. With gender neutral language, the gentrification of queer spaces and the impact AIDS had on the community. There is an honesty and vulnerability in this play, whilst still providing raucous laughter.
“French Letters” is the name of an adult store that is struggling. Located on Oxford Street, the store is the prime location for property developers that are ready to take it over. Seen as a safe haven to the main characters what does the future hold for the store and for them?
As you walk into the Kings Cross Theatre and follow the rainbow carpet up the stairs to level 2, you will find the theatre in which the show will take place. The scene is set inside an adult store, with a counter, a defined aisle and merchandise in baskets and on the walls. Yes, that kind of merchandise. Make-up, Dildos, and anal beads are thrown around over the course of the 90-minute play. As you sit on the sidelines of this space, there are times when you miss some of the reactions of the characters due to spacing as a lot of the actions happens down the aisle that leads to the counter. The lights change colours from white to purple and pink to green as we hear the characters share stories about their lives, their planned conversations, and a spotlight for when they are putting on a show. Admittedly the spotlight shines brightly on one character. Santi, a drag queen played by Mat Oldaker brings energy and laughs to the show. Flitting about the stage barefoot, transfixing the audience with their charm and praying to Whitney. Robbie Wardhaugh and Dennis Clements bring the heart and soul to this play by having a great rapport, understanding their characters, and playing them honestly. Kayla-Rose De Sousa as Charmaine stays present throughout the play by always being in it and reacting honestly to what is playing out in front of her. Marty Quinn whose character Andy changes the most throughout the play holds his character in his body, changing his stance and body language as the story goes along. Besides feeling a little flat at the beginning of the play by the end of the show the energy is high, and the disco ball illuminates the room like you are in Studio 54 (which I loved).
This play encourages its audience to honour their truth, explore themselves, and expect the unexpected. It is about finding your tribe and how the relationships made can affect your life in the best way. If you are looking for a play about hope, then I recommend you see French Letters and Leather Cleaner playing until the 24th of February.