Serving audiences a smorgasbord of sensation, strength and sexuality, Fat Fruit’s ‘F*ck Fabulous’ catered for many with bite-sized variety at the Arts Centre Melbourne (Midsumma Festival, 30 April).
A show that literally had it all, and bared it all, this mixed cabaret extravaganza is an anti-glamour, feminist and queer romp that celebrates inclusivity and the freedom that comes when one literally does not give a f.... It also burns with an angry feminist rage, which easily ignites empowerment and calls for action.
Meeting at the point where live art and theatre collide, ‘F*ck Fabulous’ is visually stimulating. It showcases gender-queer visibility in a performance inclusive of many wonderful and diverse bodies. With live music, dance, circus, clowning, drag, spoken word and sketch comedy all on the bill, the show was filled to the brim with epic ensemble work and tongue-in-cheek artistic entertainment.
Joseph Noonan’s stage design presents a pyramid tower of strewn clothing; almost symbolic of the various identities one can present to a world that’s full of judgement. The performers start in larger-than-life costume pieces that easily blend in with the chaotic set. It’s almost like Hello Kitty, Barbie and an Op Shop met for an epic bender and trashed their own wardrobes. This style makes it even more impactful when all performers end stripped down and defined by nothing – back to the basics to highlight what’s really at their core.
Queer and femme queen of cabaret, Yana Alana (Sarah Ward), was curvaceous, comedic, and commanding as the host with the most. Fuelled by a backing track that exclaimed “I don’t give a f...” and donning a glittery crown that said “F...ing Queer”, she quickly established the tone for the evening. Bouncing her hilarious comedy skits between acts, she was a sassy satirical sleuth, who also showed she has the vocal chops to slay anything from opera to rock.
Acts throughout ‘F*ck Fabulous’ are chaotic, comical and totally unexpected. Where one skit finishes, there’s no way in hell anyone can predict what’s to come. Performance highlights included Dale Woodbridge-Brown who danced with lollipop drag realness and animated expression, and Seth Sladen who was highly emotive in his stunning aerial and contortionist routines. Jess Love delivered a femme-masculine stereotypical ‘bogan’ act that was a hoot, especially drunkenly and comically handling the trapeze, and Bec Matthews donned a Madonna-inspired attitude with her parody ‘Brogues’ (Facebook it!).
Duo Glitter and Snatch became gimp gladiators; Nicci Wilks was loud and angry, dressed as steak and reiterating that she isn’t a piece of meat; Koko Ma$$ (Ebony Hickey) was raw, honest, and harrowing in her poems about identity; and Gabi Barton reminded us of the pleasures and pains of COVID-lockdown.
The real beauty of ‘F*ck Fabulous’ laid in its political undertones, identifiable in various signs within every act. For example, performers exercised on trampolines and removed clothing to reveal messages about rape. They then stripped down to nothing and performed sexual positions, which drove insinuations that no outfit is an invitation.
Our society really has big issues going on at the moment: identity crisis, rape, women’s rights, climate change, stolen generation to name a few. 'F*ck Fabulous' doesn’t shy away from anything topical, taking a sledgehammer and smashing the issue open right in front of audiences. There was even a clever skit by Yana Alana that highlighted the underside of our political parties in power. It added to the notion that among every act, and on closer inspection, there was something much deeper, personal, and important to be said. It was live performance, but also live art.
Speaking on that note, there was one particular act that prompted quite a visceral and unpleasant response and had the potential to detract from the overall experience. While I easily interpreted that the queasy feeling left in my stomach was like the unnerving feeling I get as a woman walking home alone at night, the overwhelming shock served to trump the rest of the collective. It was a lot. But just further cemented that one can do what they like on this stage, without any f...s given.
Contrastingly, a moment where the audience opened a metaphorical window to scream into the world had such divine power in it. It was euphoric, enabling, and fabulous, reminding us that together we are bodies with a right to say and think how we feel.
‘F*ck Fabulous’ was empowering in its efforts that questioned societies messed up systems. Eliciting responses to care about the big issues and remember that you are fabulous, made the show unifying and celebratory in its call to arms. In simple words, ‘F*ck Fabulous’ was f...ing fabulous.