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Review: The Coconuts at Trades Hall - Melbourne Fringe Festival

Review by Carly Fisher


Two best friends take to a stage filled with a ~variety~ of guitars and a TV from which to share their powerpoint - a deep dive, if you will, to both their personal backgrounds, their perceptions on race and an impression collection of tiny household items. Wondering what the link is between all of these things…you’ll have to see the show.

The Coconuts (Brown on the outside, white on the inside) is a simple cabaret that packs a punch largely because of the authenticity of its performers. Filled with all original songs, it’s not a cabaret where you’ll sit mouthing the lyrics to every song, but certainly its one that you’ll find yourself spending much of the time smiling through - mainly because of the very genuine friendship before you on stage.


The performers - Leela Varghese and Shabana Azeez - grew up very differently and their experiences with their cultural backgrounds is very much informed by these interactions. They share the similarities and differences between how they perceive race, culture and their own relationships with both. And then they move on, sharing more about their personal journeys - finding who they are, who they like, how they present themselves in the world and more.


I’ve made this show sound thematically quite charged and heavy. It is neither. It is a comedic, song filled hour that covers important conversations about identity but largely in a celebratory way - a reminder of how far we can each come with our own personal discoveries. When Leela shares her coming out journey, you see her smile grow that little bit larger and you instantly smile with her, indulging in her love story and in finding her perfect match.


Both women are witty, considerate, talented and very genuine in their performances. It may not be the most refined our of performance you’ll see at the fringe but it doesn’t need to be either. This is exactly the sort of show that should find a platform at the fringe - it has something to say but a kind hearted way to say it and any show that celebrates female friendship with such vigour is one that I am going to be keen to support!


If I was to get a bit more nit picky in my critique, it would be great to see Varghese and Azeez stretch themselves further and find a bit more range in their song writing - a lot of the songs tonally followed a very similar pattern which comes to distract from the later songs when you find that you have already heard the same sounding songs prior.


Musical comedy is a challenging genre but these two have something unique and whilst it may not be your ‘fall off your chair laughing’ kind of comedy, it is a real and relatable comedy that has found significant support in its audience and that I hope to continue to see grow in success for the two performers.

Image Supplied

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