If mid-semester assignments are getting you down, an hour and twenty minutes of near-sustained giggling will do wonders for your mind – and your stomach muscles. MUST’s most recent production, Psycho Beach Party, promises this.
Monash Uni Student Theatre’s version of the Charles Busch script (directed by Trelawney Edgar) is pretty damn fabulous. Set in 1962 on Malibu Beach, Psycho Beach Party is the story of Florence “Chicklet” Forrest (Christopher Bryant), a nerdy teenage girl who just wants to be one of the surfer dudes.
Amid rumours of disturbing beach attacks, Chicklet, her adorably existentialistic best friend Berdine (Lauren Jankovskis), the local surf bums – featuring Tom Middleditch as the Great Kanaka, and James Jackson as the charming Star Cat – and recently arrived B-grade movie star Bettina Barnes (Stefi Kowalewski) attempt to solve the mystery. Oh, and Chicklet has multiple personality disorder, bringing out yet another character in the manic dominatrix Anne Bowman (not to mention the African-American checkout chick, the male model and the Agony Aunt Commentator).
In terms of genre, Psycho Beach Party is difficult to place. For want of a term that actually exists, it’s a vintage-Californian-hybrid-parody falling somewhere between ’50s psychodrama, ’60s surfer flick, and ’80s slasher film. It’s delightfully kitsch, hilariously camp, and totally consuming.
Together with a three-piece rock band clad in Hawaiian shirts, MUST’s ten-strong cast makes for a colourful ensemble spread across an even more colourful pantomime-esque set.
Bryant is no doubt the show-stealer, slipping effortlessly between several different manifestations of Chicklet in one scene. He has characterisation down to a fine – and uproarious – art. Another highlight is Elizabeth Thiessen as the air-headed slurry Marvel Ann, whose timing and pose are flawless. Lindsay Templeton as Mrs. Forrest is appropriately terrifying, and surfer boys Jarryd Redwood, Daniel Snibson and Chris Chosich provide extra comic relief (as if it were necessary).
Cross-dressing and innuendo aside, Psycho Beach Party broaches on some pretty complex issues surrounding sexual awakening, homoeroticism and sadomasochism – not to mention multiple personality disorder. Nonetheless, it manages to deal liberally with each, while maintaining the show’s light-hearted archetypical fun.
High-end theatre? Perhaps not. Wildly entertaining? Absolutely.
Remaining shows: Saturday 13th & Tuesday 16th – Saturday 20th April, 7:30pm in the MUST Space.
BOOKINGS via this link OR at the MSA Desk, first floor Campus Centre.
Enquiries via MUST 9905 8173
Tickets MSA $11 / Conc $13 / Full $17