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Review: Guys and Dolls at Chapel off Chapel

Review by Darcy Rock

The word Antipode is derived from the early 17th century, meaning ‘the direct opposite of something’ which is reflected in Antipodes Theatre Company’s mission and ethos. In their latest production of the 70-year-old musical masterpiece Guys and Dolls, Antipodes boasts of it’s untraditional approach as they set out to reflect the current political and social passions of their communities while not changing a word of the original success. But despite being a timeless classic, Guys and Dolls is worn with dated attitudes that pale against the flamboyance and fluidity celebrated by the cast. Directed by Trudy Dunn (she/her) and the founding artistic director of Antipodes, Brandon Pape (he/him), the show runs over 2 and a half hours, but is delightfully engaging, it exudes energy and passion from it’s committed and vivacious cast who no doubt believe they are at the forefront of modern theatre.

The show includes the musical hits and stories of the original which follow the concurrent narratives of high-roller Sky Masterson (Javon King he/him), who falls in love with mission worker Sarah Brown (Maddison Coleman she/her) after making a bet to the lovable but mischievous Nathan Detroit (Shannon Foley they/them) who deliberates marriage after his 14-year engagement to leading Hot Box dancer Miss Adelaide (Willow Sizer they/them).

Set within Chapel Off Chapel’s snug theatre, the show takes place entirely in a prohibition-era nightclub. It is obvious we are situated somewhere within the early 20th century but it is not exactly obvious when. The audience arrive and are greeted by the cast as though they are entering the ‘Hot Box’ club. This closeness of proximity extends to include audience groups at a few tables on set and ongoing interaction between cast and crowd throughout the show. It is an intimate affair; the stage also includes the band who instead of being buried in the pit, sit behind the main action and occasionally participate. Although the set is cosy and static throughout, it does afford creative choreography led by Carolyn Ooi (she/her) and movement direction by Jonothan Homsey (he/him). The main ensemble numbers like Luck Be A Lady and especially the Hot Box ensembles’ performances are dynamic in execution and particularly unique to this rendition of the production.

The performers were the highlight of the show. They all felt incredibly professional and committed to their roles, well-rehearsed, interesting and delivered the story with finesse. They were lit in creative and exciting ways and accompanied the excellent musicianship of the band aswell. With the exception of Miss Adelaide’s stunning costuming, the general attire felt lacking of a stable sense of time and place. It didn’t afford detail that could’ve contributed to the characterisation and scenes and stood up to the awe of the performance. There were a few unironed shirts, ill-fitting and boring outfits that took from the otherwise high professionalism of the production.

Although the production did it’s best in reimagining the original, as was it’s intention, without the ability to rewrite or alter the script, I assume due to licensing, the show is unfortunately stuck with some ideas and attitudes that don’t necessarily translate to a modern audience. Rather than a bold reimagining, it felt more like a queer presentation of Guys and Dolls. There were obvious subversions of roles and characters that made the show feel fluid and current but it wasn’t quite as brazen as was promised.

Despite this, the show was a truly a success and I was pleased to revisit the classic through the lens of Antipodes Theatre Company. It was unique in it’s presentation and definitely won over the audience who delightfully enjoyed the queering of this classic.

Image Supplied


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