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Review: The Legend of Queen Kong at Arts Centre Melbourne

By Claire Bird

The Legend of Queen Kong Episode II: Queen Kong in Outer Space opened at the Arts Centre on Wednesday as part of their program for Midsumma Festival, a LGBTIQA+ cultural event which promotes inclusivity through a number of artistic platforms across Melbourne. Queen Kong, donned in a sparking spandex unitard and accompanied by her talented band the HOMOsapiens, blasts us into outer space and takes us on a colourful, queer rock-cabaret adventure.

Sarah Ward fronts the show as Queen Kong, an immortal being who is part-rock and part-ape. She intersperses her varied musical numbers with her origin story, and takes us through a very self-referentially confounding, abstracted and non-linear journey through her outer space tale in which she was “saved by rock” (both metaphorically and geologically). The musical numbers, which dominate the performance and tie in the sprinkled narrative, span a multiplicity of styles from rock-pop and rock-ballad to beat poetry and even operatic. Sarah Ward’s presence is grounded and casual yet draws you in whilst her vocals are constantly surprising and awe-inspiring.

Visually, the show was delightful. The integration of Will Huxley’s video design and Finn Scholes’ animation behind the band drew this colourful queer art-pop conglomerate rock cabaret together. The costuming of Queen Kong in her myriad of fur coats, furry white wig, furry arm pits and merkin over her skin tight gold unitard allowed this immortal-rock-ape to shine with her astronaut themed band.

The work was highly entertaining, but cohesively and dramatically lost my engagement. Although we were told not to worry about the sense of the story, I personally found that it was not that I couldn’t follow the logic, but the connections between the songs, story and constant attraction of the video projection that seemed to not meld structurally. Often humorously integrating a number of political stances on religion, accessibility and the juxtapositions in human nature, Queen Kong’s clever lyrics drove the show, with a crowd pleaser being the appearance of ScoMo in NOMO FOMO, but also tended to sweep over many pertinent topics in a humorous preach to the converted.

Something the performance cannot be faulted on however, is its inclusivity. The show is Auslan-interpreted by Asphyxia who appears on the screen as the Motherboard, as well as through captions and the live interpreter Kirri Dangerfield. There are relaxed performance options and everything down to the lights which are used to indicate the pulse or mood of the song has been considered on this intergalactic journey whish pushes the idea that “the future is accessible”.

Another beautifully integrated touch were the credits which appeared in a space drama montage featuring the designers, musicians and artists involved. Unfortunately the rolling credits didn’t work on the night I saw the performance but Ward was sure to let us know and personally thank everyone involved at the opening night event.

As an entertaining night of rock-cabaret and one of the most considered shows in terms of inclusivity, Queen Kong is worth getting to during Midumma festival.

Photo Credit: Peter Leslie

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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