REVIEW: Trash Pop Butterflies, Dance Dance Paradise by Maki Morita

The world is in crisis and three eco-feminists (Kitty, Moon & Pepper) are determined to burn down the banks, overturn the patriarchy and do it all while dancing. It’s a noble ambition and filled with the enthusiasm of young people who haven’t been given much reason to hope.

Interspersed with this story of climate action and trying to stand out in a world where everyone is more and more online, writer Maki Morita gives us short stories about animals surviving, if not thriving, in this increasingly dark world. It’s further commentary on how ridiculous humanity can be, but from the point of view of the animals who are suffering, too.

The play and the production are a collage – the text is fractured, the set is a trash pile of second-hand furniture and books and cushions and old pallets and a type of mushroom that grows in the least fertile of places. Our eco-feminist lead characters have a million thoughts all the time, and they’re so eager to get things going, but don’t know where to start. For all the positivity in this show, there’s an undercurrent of hopelessness. But then there’s a disaffected K-mart employee bursting into song, so you can put your existential crisis to one side for a minute.

Trash Pop Butterflies, Dance Dance Paradise feels like scrolling through social media, occasionally seeing posts from people you know but mostly feeling overwhelmed with information and feeling. Sometimes the posts are good and you want to share them. Sometimes there are things you want to pass by and forget ever happened.

But half the time there’s posts of cute animals and you wish you could curate your feed to see more of them.

The creation of this show feels like an act of protest, pushing back at the bleak world these young theatre-makers have inherited. It’s messy and silly and there are a lot of salient things said in this show that are overwhelmed by the rapid pace of everything.

Margot Morales is the stand-out performer here, inhabiting several animals – a bee, a cuckoo, a spider – and the aforementioned singing K-mart employee. Her character sings about giving up her day job and just knitting things to sell on etsy – her vision of utopia bringing to mind the unexpected beauty of yarn-bombing. But the whole ensemble is full of energy and fun inside the chaos.

Designer Jessamine Moffett creates a memorable tableau of re-used and recycled things that evokes a world on the brink of collapse but filled with iconic messages of hope and resistence.

Maki Morita’s text is experimenting with a lot of ideas and not all of it lands but I admire it for trying things that are wild and fanciful; a baby mutating into a flower and later disintegrating to ash is something I’ve never seen on stage before.

Trash Pop Butterflies, Dance Dance Paradise is a kind of protest play – writing and making theatre at the end of the world is tough. I wish it had a better shape to it, a structure that could help the drama and the jokes work a little better. But youthful enthusiasm and trying new things is sometimes a joy to behold.

- Keith Gow, Theatre First

Trash Pop Butterflies, Dance Dance Paradise is at Theatre Works until April 1st.

Photo: Oscar Shaw