Saturday 14 October 2023

Ned Kelly: the Big Gay Musical review (Melbourne Fringe Festival)

The story of Ned Kelly and the Kelly Gang is integral to Australian culture, our Aussie equivalent of Robin Hood. However, in Kaine Hansen's version, Ned Kelly: the Big Gay Musical, the gang are a pack of extravagant and flamboyant homosexuals with immaculate hair, perfectly groomed beards and an extraordinary ability to sing and dance.

Ellen Marning, Erin McIntosh, Monique Kerr and Sunny Youngsmith play the men who "put the bush in ranger" as they re-enact the gay retelling of the Kelly Gang. The four share wonderful chemistry and are able to make these people their own creation. Sian Dowler just about steals all the scenes they are in with a variety of supporting character roles, including a number of police officers and a diary, that allows them to display their impressive comedic timing and skills.

At times, the story takes some extreme creative liberties that results in nonsensical plot developments - a little gay man at the end of a rainbow requiring a magical golden dildo as a sacrifice for a wish to be granted - and it doesn't always work in its favour. There's no denying that this is a funny show, and the scenes with the little gay man are laughter inducing, but as a narrative it needs to be grounded in some sort of reality. Based on what was seen in this production, it feels like no idea or plot twist was knocked back and they have all been thrown into the mix with hopes for the best.

The show is outrageously over the top with lot of fantastical songs and choreography, including the highlight, "Terrorist or Fabulous". Accompanying the cast on stage is a four piece live band but there are times when it is almost impossible to hear the lyrics as they are drowned out by the volume of the music. Hansen has an exciting artistic and inventive vision but there are a few songs where the song title or sound bite is repeated far too many times, as happens in "Fuck the Binary". These would benefit from either being shortened or reworking their lyrics.

With Ned Kelly: the Big Gay Musical, Hansen has delivered this well-known historical account through a supremely queer lens. It's an ambitious undertaking and one that is not seen enough in the Australian independent theatre scene, but the laughs and high camp humour need to be balanced out with a more considered story for greater success.

Click here
to read our interview with writer/director, Kaine Hansen.

Show Details

Venue: Trades Hall, Cnr Lygon & Victoria Sts, Carlton
Season: 14, 15 and 20 October | 9:30pm, Sun 8:30pm, Friday 20th 11:00pm
Duration: 65 minutes
Tickets: $32 Full | $26 Concession
Bookings: Melbourne Fringe Festival

Image Credit: Liv Morison

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