Saturday 29 September 2018

Julia, A Lesbian - Theatre Review

What: Julia, A Lesbian
When: 28 - 30 September 2018
Where: Speakeasy HQ
Created by: Allanah Avalon and Nathalie Kozak
Directed by: Allanah Avalon
Performed by: Nathalie Kozak
Nathalie Kozak
Julia, A Lesbian is one of the shows finishing up the Melbourne Fringe Festival this year. Playing in the main theatre of Speakeasy HQ, it is brought to us by the edgy arts collective Tooth N' Fang.

Julia, A Lesbian has been borne out of a student partnership between Avalon and Kozak who both studied theatre in Abu Dhabi. The show was originally presented there earlier this year with full production on a proscenium stage (see the photo above).

They have brought it down to Australia for Fringe and the challenges have been great indeed. The Speakeasy HQ stage is a small vaudeville set up, so even with less than a third of the props of the original production, the playing space spills onto the floor. Kovak and Avalon have mastered these constraints extremely well I think.

Julia, A Lesbian is touted as a sitcom. I disagree. In fact I don't think it is comedy at all. It is an incisive dramatic investigation of a woman with serious commitment issues. It is funny in parts, but it has a sharp tail with a sting for everyone involved.

Does it matter that Julia is a lesbian? Not really. It does perhaps matter that she is a woman though, as the commentary in the show is about fidelity, commitment and relationships and Julia does not meet the standard social trope of women being desperate for a committed relationship regardless of sexual orientation.

Julia has been in a five year relationship with Sophie and tomorrow they will be moving in together as a couple. Sophie is out of town and Julia is alone and restless and having serious reservations about this next big move. She calls her BFF, her 'boo', Izzy for company but Izzy is at home with her partner.

This leaves Julia alone with a bottle of wine, an empty pizza box and the Tinder app on her phone. She starts swiping through and comes across someone she met the night before. You can guess what happens next.

Julia, A Lesbian is not a ground-breaking piece of theatre and it is not immersive as they have said in their publicity, but there is something about Kozak's ease on stage with allows the audience to relax. Kozak is not afraid of silence and moments of stillness and this makes watching her surprisingly addictive.

Usually when the audience is made to feel like a voyeur it has a sense of the forbidden but with Julia, A Lesbian it seems quite natural. I suspect it is because the smallness of the time frame, the intimacy of the venue, and the complete naturalism of Kozak's performance had a sense of watching TV. In fact I think Julia, A Lesbian would make a great short film.

The hook at the end seems a little disingenuous for me. If Julia really was in such a long term committed relationship why does she still have the Tinder app on her phone after five years and she seems very confident and casual about using it.

I found it hard to believe this was just a simple case of cold feet and this seemed supported when she talks to Izzy and blames her for landing her in this mess. Julia comes across as someone who has led her partner on for years and now she is in too deep. I found it really hard to like Julia but I did think this was an accurate depiction of modern relationship complexities. As a character Julia is totally believable.

Julia, A Lesbian is very, very short, running at around forty minutes but Speakeasy HQ is a great venue with a cocktail bar and a tapas menu which is served to you at your cabaret table. They also have a line up of vaudeville throughout the evening so you can make a night of it in this fantastic neoclassical building (which was the original bank in Melbourne to store all the gold coming in from the gold mining era).

2.5 Stars

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