Reviewed by Lucy Lucas
A mish-mash of sketch, stand-up and tragicomedy The Six Guys an Immigrant Trans Person of Colour Will Date in Melbourne is a charming and vibrant addition to La Mama’s Midsumma line-up.
The larger arc is a semi-autobiographical story of the vivacious Dax ‘D’ Carnay, a transfeminine, nonbinary performer born and raised in the Philippines who finds themselves living, and dating, in the allegedly ‘ultra-liveable’ Melbourne. We meet D at a turning point in their life, keen to get out and rediscover themselves. Initially a little unsure of themselves, Carnay is nevertheless an open and vulnerable performer and by shows end they are standing in their full power; settled, certain and much more at home on the stage. Dating their way to enlightenment they encounter a transphobic club rat, an entitled ‘self-made’ entrepreneur, a (married) Irish tradie, an extremely woke Italian creative and a horrendously unethical psychologist. With refreshing ease, Sebastiano Pitruzello brings a sound comedic sense and assured energy to all five of these disappointing paramours. Each of these encounters leaves its mark on an increasingly lonely and exhausted D who leans again and again on their best friend, played by the ever-supportive Omar Dabash. Swooping in to provide a defensive shield, shoulder to cry on and transport home from each ill-fated adventure it seems inevitable that, in age-old rom-com tradition, D will eventually realise that what they have been looking for has been right beside them all along. Dabash oozes charisma and sweetness, a perfect casting for the best friend turned prince charming.
Fairy-tale and romantic comedy tropes like these abound. D is alternately evil queen, damsel in distress and empowered princess ready to go out and conquer their kingdom. Quotes from classic films including Bridget Jones’ Diary, 10 Things I Hate About You and My Best Friend’s Wedding divide the scenes. At first these quotes seemed a little incongruous, their content not directly relating to the scenes pre (or pro) ceding them but as the story develops, they begin to meld with design choices and plot to build a clear reflection of love and relationships as D has been taught they should look. Six Guys both satirises and pays homage to the romantic education of the 90s and early 2000s but the ending ensures that the most pervasive and damaging message of all, that one can only become whole through the finding of a perfect other half, is ultimately challenged.
Post Hannah Gadsby’s Nanette the comedy world’s relationship with self-reflection has been altered drastically. Particularly as a queer-theatre community we hope to find the funny without unwittingly disparaging each other and ourselves. There is always a tight-rope walked between self-deprecation and reinforcing internalised phobias. Carnay plays in this space with charisma and ease, accessibly down to earth without ever disempowering themselves. Six Guys is fun without being frivolous and entertaining without ever making light of D’s deep pain. In a recent interview Carnay said of the show “…I truly believe that just hearing about [my story] one would be able to pick up a nugget of wisdom here and there that they can use for themselves…”. I wholeheartedly agree with this sentiment, the sequence about D’s conditioned belief that they may not be deserving of love because of who they are hits me particularly powerfully, and I am certain each person in the theatre had a similar moment of deep connection with the script, no matter their identity or specific experience. D has written a truly modern feminist fairy-tale. Six Guys is an insightful unpacking of the prince charming complex conditioned into many young femme people and a heart-warming answer to the abnegation of self it encourages.
Established Naarm theatre maker Beng Oh helms a talented group of creatives to deliver a clear thematic and aesthetic vision. The design elements are delightful, assisting D’s storytelling without distracting and managed to create a remarkable sense of wonder and luxury on an independent budget. Christina Logan-Bell’s set and costumes were simple, colourful and beautifully executed. Sound by Ben Keene, lighting by Clare Springett and visual design by Jordan Hanrahan all generally supported the story whilst occasionally creating fantastic moments of fantasy and humour.
Overall, Six Guys takes a moment to warm up but once there it is a fun and genuine exploration of love, loss and resilience filtered through the uniquely insightful lens of Dax Carnay.