Polygamy, Polygayou review

3 out of 5 stars
Polygamy, Polygayou Melbourne Fringe supplied image 2019
Photograph: Supplied

Time Out says

3 out of 5 stars

This new indie musical celebrates love – wherever and however it's found

Melbourne Fringe is known for being the festival where we can see new work from independent artists. Polygamy, Polygayou is a new musical created, without a cent of funding, by some of Melbourne’s best indie cabaret artists and comedians. It might continue to develop and change until it becomes an international cult hit, which will be described as “Hedwig meets Book of Mormon meets Showgirls.” Or this will be your only chance to see it. Either way, you’ll get the bragging rights of “I saw the very first season” or a great story about how “I once saw a super camp, super queer, super feminist musical about polygamist sister wives becoming a superstar group called the Spouse Girls”.

Alice Tovey, Margot Tanjutco and Hayley Tantau have each won adoring fans, award nominations and critical raves for their solo work in cabaret and comedy. Each confront ideas of what women are expected to be on stages, in relationships and in life, and refuse to accept the limitations of these expectations. Charity Werk was a 2018 Raw Comedy competition finalist and is already questioning expectations about how women are represented by drag.

Evelyn (Werk) was Edgar’s first wife and somehow never got pregnant. But they lived in Mormon(ish) Old South Wales where polygamy’s cool and the problem could be solved by Catherine (Tovey), whose dad who was happy to give her away to be wife number two. She also didn’t get pregnant. Then along came Brandi (Tanjutco) who knew her skill was in being a sugar baby. Except, no baby. And that’s just the opening song. But what does a family of sister wives do when their patriarch dies in an accident? Luck would have it that sassy American celebrity agent Janet (Tantau) is passing by and hears the wives singing, much better than angels, at the funeral. Do they go to Hollywood and become stars? Does anyone realise that Catherine is “a big les”? Does Evelyn ever get used to sequins? Of course! And that’s just the obvious plot twists.

There’s work to do on this show because it’s so new, but its rawness and op-shop budget don’t make it any less fabulously smart, sharply astute or gorgeously hilarious. As it develops, the pop-culture references will change; the story will find stronger sub plots; they’ll explore the differences between polygamy and polyamory; and a designer will give their soul to go to Spotlight, buy all the sequins and make the costumes.

Meanwhile, the songs are singable and have three-part harmonies, the story’s structure is solid, the characters are far more complex than what’s expected of their stereotypes, and director Clare Rankine has as much fun with how the story is told as with the story itself. 

Polygamy, Polygayou is positive and subversive as it celebrates love and family wherever it’s found. That’s not to say that it doesn’t boot some attitudes and ideas into the pits of hellfire. Anyone who thinks it’s having an easy dig at eyebrow-raising relationships and beliefs can clutch their pearls and warm up as they feel the flames.

This is a world where no one notices or cares that the respected conservative matriarch is a man in a red wig and cat-eye makeup, where the choice to marry is one of love, where love is sexy, and where everyone is welcome because “there’s always room for one more”.

It’s hard to choose what to see during a festival. Every show at Melbourne Fringe is taking a risk just to be there, so take a risk with what you see and be among the first to see new work. And someone give this show some development money because it’d be too sad if it more people aren’t welcomed into their folds of sisterly love.

By: Anne-Marie Peard



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