Review by Kate Gaul
Purple Tape Over has begun at KXT and over a month this ambitious emerging theatre company (lead by Tyler Fitzpatrick and Lily Hayman) bring us the best of female identifying and gender diverse theatre making. They inhabit both the Mainstage and Vault, and it promises to be unforgettable residency!
First cab off the rank is Lucy Heffernan’s “Party Girl” – a solo performance created and performed by Heffernan which has enjoyed several iterations including a season at Merrigong X and, more recently, Adelaide Fringe 2023. Viva second third and fourth seasons of new work!
“Party Girl” is the story of Fairy Sprinkles a children’s party entertainer whose actual life is a juxtaposition to the one she creates for her enthusiastic birthday children. It’s young woman as hot mess; it’s an exploration of existential dread around identity, faith, and love; and importantly Fairy Sprinkles juggles all of this and the care for a bipolar mum.
The events unfold over one Saturday. Waking with a horrendous hangover, 3 birthday parties and an unexpected rescue of mum off the roof of the family home and into care. It’s a toxic cycle. Fairy Sprinkles is rendered invisible to a bunch of North Shore toffs and heart broken in the Western Suburbs as she holds a three-year-old in front of a home-made Barbie-in-a ballgown cake. The images in the writing are often striking; sometimes poetic and occasionally drawn from just another bogan turn of phrase. We can totally envisage each scenario – strong writing and a strong performance make for a satisfying journey. And it’s one that throws us off guard. Interspersed with original songs, guitar playing Heffernan uses the music to deepen each scenario. She’s an angry character – with good reason – and the story packs a punch as it climaxes with a unsettling rendition of Cher’s “Believe”.
There’s a lot of “loss” in this show – loss of innocence, loss of identity, loss of faith, loss love and loss of that important relationship with the idea and reality of “mother” and “child”. It’s bleak, and this is echoed in Heffernan’s burnt-out delivery and manner. She is deliberately challenging us. And is the embodiment of the frustration and pain. Thankfully there is a lot to laugh at too. The writing, performance and entire package landed when Fairy Sparkles – at the end of the awful Saturday - finally connects with her mum in the hospital. On a mattress on the floor, her mother with masking-taped sneakers on her feet lies like a child and is comforted by her daughter. It sat, briefly, as a symbol of everything each of us will experience. Maybe not the mental health conditions of this particular story but the complex resonances of the images linger long after the play ends.
The production is deftly directed and produced by Lily Hayman who is creating an impressive body of work. The production is busy and frantic at times but both performer and director understand the power of stillness and silence. This is a graceful production. And all brilliantly supported by co-producer and lighting designer Tyler Fitzpatrick. Fitzpatrick has fun creating distinctive lighting states for the musical moments inside the drama.
Purple Tape has knocked it out of the ballpark with the opening of the Tape Over project. Get along. Support and celebrate these outstanding talents!