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Review: Party Snake at Old 505 Gallery

By Caitlin Williams

You’re ushered into a small, lived-in space. It’s intimate, and not just in the small-theatre kind of way. This feels like a home, albeit a messy one. Like a bedroom, like a boudoir. This is the cozy, disarrayed world of Party Snake. 

This little space lets the performer shine. Lachlan Martin plays a drag queen by night, primary school teacher by day, who isn’t quite sure in which world he’s truly at home. As the queen, she’s flirtatious, chiding and charming the audience in turn. But as the sun rises, Martin adopts an earnestness that’s vulnerable, inviting us into his private heartaches and longings. 

This is is a one-Queen-show, and Martin does a fantastic job of commanding the stage in both iterations of his character. Directed and written by Kotryna Gesait, this is a cohesive and fluid production. There’s enough audience interaction to make us feel like we’re really there, tucked away in this bedroom, talking with that friend who’s always astounded us and left us feeling a little bewildered. 

Party Snake invites us to look at the different roles we play, and the rulebooks we keep that allow us to maintain appearances. The end of the night is the death of the drag queen, and the rebirth of the school teacher (with a little bit of cocaine to speed the way). We’re watching the in-between, the transition from one to the other, as the sun symbolically rises and a new day starts. 

Gesait’s writing is indulgent and extravagant, but in a way that seems true to the extravagance of our protagonist. Sex, Steinbeck and sin are weaved together — sometimes in one sentence. These lurches from philosophy to party talk at times feel a little trite, but don’t take the glamour out of the script. You’re laughing at the start in a way that draws you in, connecting with the character so that the tender, more sober moments later are able to pack more of a punch. The drag queen is a drag queen, with all their glittery, messy splendour. The teacher is the man beneath, in turns somber and achingly hopeful. Martin’s physicality beautifully brings the character(s) to life. He performs with gusto, and a magnetic charm. 

A set littered with clothes and makeup (and Judy Garland paraphernalia) does a wonderful job of creating the right sort of lived-in-ness. Nothing feels too stereotypical, it is a homely, if unremarkable, stage. The lighting state was overall fairly simple, in pinks and purples that follow the narrative arc, fading to natural light as the dress is shed, the button down put on and the wig put away. Limited sound cues never detracted from the performance, and even feature a melodramatic rendition of Non, je ne regrette rien.

Party Snake is a little gem of theatre. It’s funny, it’s thoroughly engaging, and it’s hopeful. This is a story about a drag queen, but it’s also a story about us — all the myriad versions of us. I’d definitely recommend catching it before it shimmers away into the night. Party Snake runs from 18th to the 21st September at the Old 505 Gallery.  

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All opinions and thoughts expressed within reviews on Theatre Travels are those of the writer and not of the company at large.


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