Review by Naomi Cardwell
In a garbage heap at the end of the world, three pixie-like women realise their plans for their quarter-life crisis dance party will have to be revised. The world simply won’t hold together long enough: 25 years old is the new mid-life. With time accelerating out of control, a gorgon-eyed baby transforms into a gigantic flower and immediately reduces to ash. Moss and mushrooms thrive in the detritus while creatures and human beings decline. Above the action, the words “Fuck the clock!” are scrawled in swirling graffiti surrounded by hearts and notebook doodles.
Trash Pop Butterflies, Dance Dance Paradise is visually gorgeous, with a set by Jessamine Moffatt that looks like an apocalyptic, eco-feminist successor to the funky 1992 animated film Fern Gully. Piles of garbage are festooned with flowers, a kaleidoscopic array of mushrooms, and lashings of anarchist and feminist graffiti which glow in ultra-violet light. Sound designer Laura Strobech supplies a kickass soundtrack of feminist punk rock, from the Slits to Le Tigre and Bratmobile.
The play divides into two narratives: in one, the three young anarchists argue over how to take over the world and create Utopia before it’s all too late. Hayley Edwards is hilarious as Moon, a kind-hearted shoplifting enthusiast whose vacant perkiness vividly recalls Amanda Seyfried in Mean Girls. As Pepper and Kitty, Vivian Nguyen and Alana Louise keep up a continuous witty, bickering repartee. Director Amelia Burke interweaves a series of darkly adorable vignettes throughout this, following the lives of various creatures trying to survive in what’s left of their habitats. Margot Morales and Myfanwy Hocking are a joyful comic pairing for all these roles, winking luridly to the audience and adopting a fabulous variety of accents.
We’re introduced to a pair of fabulously chav, twerking cuckoo birds who discuss their fleeting pangs about abandoning their eggs to the nests of more maternal birds so they can party.
A seductive southern spideress lures a serenading man-spider to her lair, only to cut short his love song, ripping off all his legs and eating him before reclining back on her couch, satisfied.
Two tadpole siblings dream of graduating into the mysterious world of “land” but struggle to thrive in a pond depleted of natural resources, leading to an unthinkable betrayal.
Morales is a gifted singer, and her spider love song on ukulele is another of the many gems in this hectic, eclectic work. Moffatt’s costume design for all these creatures is unbelievably cute and inventive, turning the production’s low budget into an absolute highlight rather than a hindrance. I’d see the play again just to take in all her clever creations, which have the audience giggling out loud as soon as the vignettes begin.
Like the costuming, Maki Morita’s writing thrives the very most in its little moments. A memorable scene arises as Moon, Kitty and Pepper debate the ethics of shoplifting at Kmart while a worker next to them endlessly folds and refolds the same hoodie like a miserable modern-day Sisyphus. Moments like these are instances of effortless visual irony and brilliant storytelling, and there are plenty of them throughout.
What doesn’t work as well is the reconciliation of all these sparkling elements into a coherent whole. Like its title, Trash Pop Butterflies, Dance Dance Paradise is a lot. We can’t really blame Moritz for not solving climate change or inequality in seventy minutes, but the epic scale of the work makes it tough for the script to write its way out of the maximalist proposition.
However, as the show wraps up with another beautiful set, and the cast dance it out to Amyl and the Sniffers (choreography by Alec Katsourakis), the audience are up and dancing too. While the overarching storyline may need a little more workshopping, Trash Pop Butterflies is clearly a labour of love, filled to bursting with shiny homemade treasures and earnest punk goodness.