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Review: Teeth and Tonic at La Mama Theatre

Review by Darcy Rock


Teeth and Tonic is an apt title for the biting commentary and restorative camaraderie that exists within this dark comedic play written by Megan Scolyer-Gray. After a sold-out extended run at Melbourne Fringe in 2022, Teeth and Tonic returns to Carlton’s La Mama Courthouse Theatre from March 20th to 28th to confront challenging misogynistic themes without batting an eyelid.


Directed by Maya Britbart Ellazam, Teeth and Tonic wants to see, hear and validate, lending an outlet to process all-to-common experiences of sexism that are still prevalent today but through a uniquely millennial lens. It’s sensitive, emotional and contains themes of emotional and domestic abuse and violence which are given prior to the show through content warnings. This heaviness is somehow tactfully offset with relatable and well-delivered quips, bouts of fun and silliness and queerness – it even includes a character that is a glass of orange juice called ‘OJ’ (Bugs Baschera).


If that’s not enough the ensemble of queer, non-binary and female creatives are a joy and through their magnetism we are drawn into a world of heart-warming friendship and platonic love. Scolyer-Gray has an ease to her performance that allows the other cast-members to shine with her. 


We begin in a millennial-clad lounge-room, walls adorned with progressive and colourful art and obscenities crocheted into wall ornaments where roommates Frankie (Megan Scolyer-Gray) and Bec (Isabella Patane) banter through Bec’s current relationship quandary, leading to simple advice from Frankie to just dump him.


The action that follows simple advice is not so simple. Quickly we are drawn into a chaotic but well-paced series of events that is energetically balanced between the actors. There are points the dialogue is missed to panicked ramblings but this is paired against moments of silent reflection where we process Bec’s emotional journey confronting her boyfriend Matt (Joey Phyland) who does not take the criticism well, and what follows is the tension and release of this break-up.


The play’s advertised ‘queerness’ is lost to it’s primary portrayal of heteronormative relationship dynamics. Bec’s eventual ex-boyfriend Matt is reduced to every toxic male trope and deprived of nuance which is comical; his counterpart is Liam (John Mondelo), a love-interest of Frankie, who uses consent and respect in his every interaction and romantic advance. The irony that Matt is treated and portrayed in the ways that women hate to be, is not lost but it does beg the question; how do we move beyond these reductions and invite change in these stereotypes beyond referring to him as idiot man? It is amusing but not necessarily productive, I would like to see how these views of the world can be transformed into something new or not seen before.


Teeth and Tonic is Megan Scolyer-Gray’s attempt to unpack personal experiences and while deeply personal it is successful in letting the hurt of these experiences open and heal through connection and without over-complication. While we’re spared light-hearted themes for those that dig deeper, I think audiences will appreciate the potential of this cast and playwright and look to the future works that they create and collaborate on.


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