Review by Hannah Fredriksson
It's an ambitious task to breach an uncomfortable topic with singing, dancing and humour, but Ellessdee Productions has tackled the task head on in their original show 'Me Too The Musical', making it's world premiere at Perth Fringe Festival in 2021.
Ellessdee Productions was founded by Louise Plant, Stacey Broomhead and Dan Smith, who each have experience working with vulnerable families and victims of abuse. They found they shared a dark sense of humour that allowed them to explore controversial topics on the stage. Each of them also plays a number of characters in the show.
The show opens on a retro style club, where a regular patron Annie is following the news, reading about all the 'Me Too' stories and feeling left out that she doesn't have her own 'Me Too' story. This didn't really sit well with me, it's one thing to show a female character craving male attention, it's another thing to show a female character craving 'unwanted' male attention, as the 'Me Too' Movement is about harassment rather than reciprocation – in this case they have equated the 'Me Too' movement with Annie wanting love and a genuine connection. Naturally she goes about it by making herself more physically attractive to men.
Annie is played by Hannah Jones who suits the role perfectly, nailing an awkward-to-stunning makeover moment that was worthy of The Princess Diaries. Along her journey to perfect her dating app profiles, slim down and find love, she is assisted by Plant and Broomhead's various characters. She is also assisted by Mandy, a bogan guru played by Robin Wood. There is one number where they sing about a number of real world perpetrators of abuse as though they aspire to be the victims, rather than rejecting the behaviour. Despite this there is a strong sense of unity between the women, each a strong performer and vocalist.
Smith's various characters perfectly embody a number of problematic male stereotypes – a compliment I never thought I'd give! There is also an omniscient narrator character who flits in and out of the scenes played by Callum O'Mara, his role in each situation seems to go unnoticed by the other characters, but his asides to the audience help give context to some of the scenes as he tries to nudge Annie in the right direction of loving herself and not being caught up in trying to change to please others.
The musical is supported by a three piece band led by musical director Todd Fishwick who plays guitar, alongside Jen Irvine on keys and Josh Barker on drums, who flawlessly demonstrate a number of genres throughout the show.
The energy of the show stays high throughout, keeping the audience engaged from beginning to end. There were a couple moments that should have received bigger laughs but the comedic timing didn't land properly, or the volume of the dialogue was too low to hit clearly for the whole room.
Me Too The Musical swings big to tackle a heavy subject in a humorous way, but it requires a little bit more polish to serve a solid mic drop on the issue of abuse. The themes of Me Too The Musical are muddled and don't necessarily hit the mark, but starting a conversation on taboo topics with a wider audience is an essential part of the Fringe Festival experience.