Reviewed by Ellen Becker
The Brevity Theatre Co has reimagined Charles Busch's camp Off-Broadway hit Vampire Lesbians of Sodom for the intimate cabaret setting of the Bordello Theatre at the Kings Cross Hotel. Eliza Reilly plays Madeleine Astarte, a beautiful virgin in ancient Sodom sacrificed to the camp and cunning monster, the "Succubus," or La Condessa, played by Nicholas Gell. La Condessa's bite turns the young virgin into a Lesbian Vampire, and the rest of the play traces their love hate relationship through time, as they become stars in silent era Hollywood, and has-beens in Vegas.
Into Busch's witty, dirty script filled with deliberately terrible puns and clever wordplay, composer Matthew Predny has interweaved original compositions, with the highlight probably being Eliza Reilly's coming-of-vampiredom confessional "Now, because I wasn't f*****, I'm f*****," from which you can tell that this show is for 18 years and older, and not for the prudish or easily offended. Gell gives a strong performance as a Dr. Frankenfurter style megalomaniac, and Reilly makes a fitting archrival, a comedic and witty actress, she is as attention grabbing as La Condessa.
Supplementing Reilly and Gell is a strong ensemble cast, who really shine in the vaudevillian comedy of the silent Hollywood era. There's a host of allusions to Sunset Boulevard, the funniest of which is probably the Hedda Hopper style gossip columnist who exposes herself as a German SS-style vampire hunter who breaks out in an ode to garlic. Special mention must be made of Skyler Ellis, who in one supporting role as a silent-era Hollywood heartthrob, ridiculously over gesticulates all of his lines, provoking side-splitting laughter from the audience.
From the small space of the Bordello, brilliantly lit by Ben Brockman, to the cast mingling with their audience before the show, director Samantha Young has done a wonderful job at doing away with the fourth wall and encouraging reciprocity with a happily generous audience. This type of relationship is what makes cabaret so enjoyable; when a wig slips off, there's a knowingness with the performer that gives way to communal laughter. It's not going to blow your mind with anything new, but Vampire Lesbians of Sodom is a transporting encounter, an immersive and intimate experience that gets you what you give.
Vampire Lesbians of Sodom is showing in the Bordello Theatre at the Kings Cross Hotel until the 7th March. For show times and tickets, visit: http://www.brevitytheatre.com.au/vampire-lesbians-of-sodom.html