Art & Design

   

Psycho Beach Party

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One of the premier events of the Midsumma Festival, Little Ones Theatre’s Psycho Beach Party is a joyous high-camp parodic mix of surf, slasher and psycho-thriller genres.

First performed off-Broadway in the late 1980s and later adapted into a cult film, Charles Busch’s play is cheekily and fondly updated by director Stephen Nicolazzo. Like Nicolazzo’s Sex.Violence.Blood.Gore for MKA Theatre last year, the production combines a killer script with great comic performances from an animated ensemble.

Psycho Beach Party gives us the world of Malibu Beach circa 1962, where beach bums rule. A lunatic is shaving local teens as they sleep, and Chicklet Forrest (a gender-bending Ash Flanders) just wants to learn how to surf. That is, if she can get past her domineering mother (Amanda McGregor, channelling Joan Crawford), the consternations of her besties and the surfers themselves.

Meanwhile, famous B-grade actress Bettina Barnes (Caitlin Adams) has just rented a shack by the beach, and there’s the annual luau coming up. It’s no wonder Chicklet feels like she’s losing her mind…

Helmed by Nicolazzo, the ensemble cast embraces the schlocky nature of the script, giving stylised performances that nonetheless uncover sweetness at the core of each character. Flanders is hysterically unpredictable as Chicklet’s schoolgirl persona is overtaken by some interesting inner demons—although the supporting actors constantly threaten to upstage, as do the musical set-pieces choreographed by Kurt Phelan.

Owen Phillips’ set design and costumes by Eugyeene Teh and Tessa Leigh Wolfenbuttel Pitt push the play’s kitschy tone to extreme, with leopard print covering everything and everyone.

After a successful season in Sydney’s Bondi Pavilion Theatre, this brief Melbourne season is the production’s last incarnation (for now, at least). Psycho Beach Party is a perfectly pitched Midsumma offering, and one not to be missed.

Psycho Beach Party is playing at Theatre Works, St Kilda, as part of Midsumma Festival until January 19. For more information and tickets visit theatreworks.org.au


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