Saturday, 2 February 2019

REVIEW: Truly Madly Britney by Alberto Di Troia

Adam (Nick Clark), Steve (Adam Garner) and Chad (Alex Thew)
in Truly Madly Britney at Theatre Works
Photo: Lachlan Woods

Adam and Steve, a gay couple from Australia, have maxed-out two credit cards to travel to the Mecca of hyper-consumerism, Las Vegas, to see Britney Spears with a meet-and-greet after. Their relationship is under some pressure from the money they’ve spent on the trip so far, though Steve (Adam Garner) assures Adam (Nick Clark) that the whole experience is bringing them closer together.

They are staying in suburban Vegas with Chad Hardcastle, a hyper-masculine, good ol’ Christian, definitely heterosexual, Britney stan, whose obsession with the pop-star rivals Steve’s – except Chad thinks he and Britney are going to get married.

After Britney sprains her ankle and the concert Adam and Steve were supposed to attend gets cancelled, Steve’s mania about meeting the megastar goes into hyper-drive. Upon meeting Judy and her son Kevin, who is getting to meet Britney through the Grant-A-Wish Foundation, Steve starts to concoct a plan to attain his goal – and will let nothing get in his way.

Alberto Di Troia’s play is an anarchic satire on consumerism and pop-culture obsession. It is a beautifully crafted script that also tackles America’s gun culture and toxic masculinity. It’s such a pleasure to see a new work that has been so well developed before its first production.

Under the excellent direction of Hannah Fallowfield, Truly Madly Britney is wild but also finds time to dig into real truths – about the pressure of relationships, friendship and family. An uncomfortably awkward sex scene between Adam and Steve tells us as much about their history as their shouted arguments about forgotten dreams and the push-and-pull over how far they will go to meet Ms Spears.

Kudos to Bethany J Fellows, whose remarkably simple set & costumes choices really does elevate the text. Everything is on wheels for quick set changes – and costume changes are done right there in front of us, too. To stage manager, Lowana Ellis, and assistant stage manager, Max Woods, you have my highest respect for the expert scene transitions and for the execution and clean-up of the vomit.

Adam Garner’s Steve is volatile – always on the edge of saying or doing something completely outrageous. Garner plays him like a over-shaken bottle of Coke, ready to explode at any moment. And somehow in his performance, he never makes the character grating or repetitive. Even in his worst moments, there’s a fascination to watching Steve mutate and grow further out of control.

Nick Clark’s Adam is more reserved, and very much on-edge. He may collapse at any moment from exhaustion; Clark finds a real human truth in the stresses of Adam and Steve’s relationship. Amongst the glitz and the high-volume energy of the play, Adam has a couple of quiet moments that Clark nails – reminding us of the people they were before this adventure.

Alex Thew’s Chad is just delightful in his focus and obliviousness to everything else going on around him. Louisa Wall’s Judy commands the stage whenever she is on it; the already tall actor is in heels for most of the show, so she towers over everyone – a performance you cannot take your eyes off.

The content of the show pushes the boundaries of good taste, absolutely. It’s difficult to see how a satire on these particular aspects of our culture could be done with anything that approaches subtlety anyway. These are colourful characters to begin with – but push them into situations that have spun out of their control in a landscape that is driven by glitz, glamour and obsession by design, no wonder we’re confronted with an ending that’s both a release of sexual energy and horrific violence.

Alberto Di Troia and Hannah Fallowfield should be enormously proud of their achievement here. Truly Madly Britney is smart, sharp, hilarious and profane. The road to Britney is paved with good intentions, but also cancer, vomit, awkward sex, guns, declarations of love and a shaved head. All in homage to the pop diva – and as a warning that we all might go too far in our obsessions.

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