Star-crossed lesbians defy the odds in this original Australian musical returning for the Comedy Festival
The history of film, TV and theatre is littered with dead queer people – particularly dead lesbians. That’s the starting point for writer and director Jean Tong’s musical about star-crossed lesbians, tackling the way our culture has represented and misrepresented queer women.
Melding together Shakespearean tragedy with contemporary rom-com tropes (there’s the cutest meet cute you could image), Romeo Is Not The Only Fruit follows Juliet (the brightly funny and very promising Margot Tanjutco) and Darcy (a game and fearlessly dorky Louisa Wall). They’re both knocked for six when they discover one another and experience a love so gay and so strong that it surely must end in tragedy. Thankfully there’s a chorus (Sasha Chong, Nisha Joseph and Pallavi Waghmode) to make sure they don’t suffer the same fate as so many before them.
The musical is at its best in a scene that flips racism on its head by making the white Darcy a minority when she meets Juliet’s culturally diverse family. She’s subjected to a song made up of brilliantly observed microaggressions against herself and her race, and the declaration that “we’re so not racist”.
But otherwise, Tong does nothing particularly interesting with the musical form – in fact, the creatives just don’t seem to know enough about musical theatre to effectively use or spoof it. There’s little nuance; instead, the show is just packed with melodramatic emoting that’s not always as funny as it could be.
Although Tong’s lyrics have enough witty rhymes to get by, the sound design is rather thin and tinny, which leeches a surprising amount of life out of the mostly flat pop score, composed by Sailor Take Warning. And Tong’s staging, combined with Laura Frew’s choreography, is frequently clumsy and an uninventive use of space.
Romeo Is Not The Only Fruit is a show that’s well meaning in so many ways, and driven by a strong and necessarily subversive spirit. But its observations about the media’s portrayal of queer women are not exactly original and it rarely manages to transform those observations into effective theatre or comedy.