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Review: Ode to Joy (How Gordon Got To Go To The Nasty Pig Party) at Bell Shakespeare, The Neilson Nutshell

Review by Lauren Donikian

You know you are in for a treat when you walk into a theatre and are handed a glossary with terms on it explaining things you will hear throughout the show like G, ESTJ, and Chem Sex. In a pink haze you take your seat and techno beats are playing in the background. There is a DJ to the side of the stage who is almost hidden by a rack of clothes, there are speakers propped up behind them and a single lamp light.

Performed in a round, Ode to Joy is a hilarious 1 hour play about Gordon, a gay man who has lived his life quite conservatively (he believes), and the focus on how he feels about himself and the friends he makes along the way. His friends are Manpussy and Cumpig, or Tom and Marcus. Whichever you prefer. They are a cheeky trio who have only just met but are bonded through shared experiences namely at a sex party in Berlin. 

After its successful run at Edinburgh Fringe in 2022, the team from Stories Untold Production (a Scottish based production company) and Playwright James Ley have brought Ode To Joy to Sydney as part of Sydney Festival. 

Gordon, played by Lawrence Boothman is a man that is always questioning, who is he, what his worth is and just how nasty he can be. Muted, in stature against MacKinnon and in costume, Boothman in his blue shirt and dark green trousers is loveable, energetic, and surprisingly flexible. He plays Gordon as an uptight workaholic, that is just so desperate to be seen and loved. There is a frenetic energy that keeps you on the edge of your seat and your eyes on him as he is running around in circles. MacKinnon, who appears in a yellow and grey kilt with a sheer black t-shirt and harness acts as Narrator and does a fabulous job of getting the audience onside. Saucily striding around the stage, Mackinnon is a force to be reckoned with, not only for the quick whips in the script but for the adoring way he plays Manpussy. There is a tenderness that shines through that makes you instantly fall for this character. Almost like a father figure that you want to stay around. He just wants the best for everyone. Sean Connor who plays Cumpig is the heart of this play. In his bright orange short shorts and matching jacket, black harness and white socks pulled up around his calves Connor is warm and tender. He plays multiple characters throughout the play, but his Cumpig is endearing. There is a softness for Gordon and a want to be good that is touching so early in the play. There is a real inner battle for wanting to be better than before, and it bleeds onto the stage. The trio have a clear chemistry and, in a play, where anything is possible it’s nice to see the cast have each other’s backs…ides. 

Whilst not the target audience, I can assure you that I had a great time. I laughed a little too loud, and there was a constant smile on my face. The beating heart of this play was not the techno being spun by DJ ‘Simonotron’ but the ways in which we find ourselves. It may not be conventional, but if you have good people on your side for the ride you will be happy with the person you become, and the real ones will love you for that. 

Image Supplied


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