A deeply rich and wickedly biting insight into queer stories and queer voices. Chris Edwards’ play is dripping with glittery venom – no one is safe as his characters slash and snap their way across the stage. This work is perfectly suited to a top notch ensemble and the cast of This Bitter Earth surpass all expectations.
The work begins with a startlingly honest journey through a naive boys first foray into Grindr and hooking up and discovering a world outside of his own. Thankfully this narrative is short lived and the audience is whisked through hyper camp vignettes that lift the work to its delicious heights.
Michael Cameron, Elle Mickell, Matthew Predny, Ariadne Sgouros, Sasha Simon and Alexander Stylianou make up the powerhouse ensemble – with Michael Cameron, Elle Mickell and Ariadne Sgouros being the stand outs. Each take on a number of characters with varying depths – the cast bounce from one dimensional characters to more poignant individuals with ease (and well timed scene changes).
Riley Spadaro’s direction is smooth and purposeful – we rapidly know where we are and what is about to unfold but with just enough surprises peppered throughout to keep the focus. The stark thrust stage is perfectly suited to the hyper-realism of the script and the lighting and sound create some genuinely beautifully haunting moments.
What makes this piece work is almost it’s undoing – the exaggerated characters and long cliched sentences spoken effectively shines a light right onto the base and often inflated ego found in Queer Theatre, suffocated under the weight of its self righteousness. But by leaning into this style and narrative the work also takes on a Mamet ascetic, a kind of people don’t actually talk like that, almost too smart for its own good, quality that can often feel like the work is just trying too hard.
While there is nothing new about the form or formula, This Bitter Earth is a well-honed humourous look at queer lives and dares the audience to ‘normalise’ the ‘otherness’.
This Bitter Earth
Theatre Works, 14 Acland Street, Melbourne
Performance: Friday 24 January 2020 – 7.00pm
Season continues to 2 February 2020
Information and Bookings: www.theatreworks.org.au
Image: The Cast of This Bitter Earth – photo by Matthew Predny
Review: Gavin Roach