Theatre Review: Hot Mess (KXT Bakehouse, Sydney) ★★★1/3

Hot Mess from The General Public at Sydney’s King’s Cross Theatre this month begins with an ode to those awkward public bathroom stall conversations you have with strangers at nightclubs (or is that just me?!), with the characters talking shit, literally. Uncomfortable and hilarious, I couldn’t help but laugh throughout the show. The line, “the Poseidon’s kiss is the poor man’s bide” will stay with me forever.

We meet Alicia (Alicia Dulnuan-Demou) who is celebrating her thirtieth birthday with her wonderfully loud and “bogan-lly” obnoxious BFF from Cairns, Hannah (Hannah Grace Fulton), and her flatmate/ex-girlfriend Courtney (Courtney Ammenhauser), with the tension between them surfacing early on in the night club restroom. Then there are the lovers-turned-freinds Jenna (Jenna Suffren) and Mây (Mây Tran) who are desperate to have a fun night out. Finally, Jessica (Jessica Adie) a night club employee and part-time drug dealer, is the voice of reason amidst the high drama surrounding the other characters.

Deprived of nights out dancing over the last year, Hot Mess celebrates the fun of partying with your friends, lovers, and the to be determined. Never falling into the queer narrative tropes, the intersecting stories take on female friendships and the power of owning queer spaces. Along with some camp comedy, there are some searingly truthful moments with Jenna acknowledging that her relationship choices aren’t necessarily the most healthy with some insight into the pain that lies behind her decisions.

With clear and confident direction by Tash O’Brien is confident, all the performers fully inhabit the space and the energy never waned. The lighting design by Vanessa Gregoriou and set design from Hayley O’Mara gives the stage an authentic club vibe, while the detailed graffiti on the stall walls adds to the fun. The fresh, natural dialogue flows effortlessly and the cast’s exuberant performances are a thrill.

Although Hot Mess revels in some melodramatic moments with cute-meets, perceived betrayals and ensuing hilarity, the power of the ensemble comes together during a series of interstitials. The cast create musical numbers around issues like reproductive rights and misogyny, and (quite rightly) take aim to the Morrison government. The highlight though was the finale, a reworking of the cell block tango, appropriately reimagined as a toilet block tango; a fitting and riotous way to end the show.

Hot Mess is a perfect showcase for the cast’s talent, with some empowering messages about female agency.

By Adam van Rooijen

Hot Mess plays KXT Bakehouse Sydney until Saturday June 19th.

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