There are few figures in Australian history that have become a symbol of masculinity in the way that Ned Kelly has been. Now it is time for the bushranger with the bushy beard to get a splash of glitter, thanks to writer and director, Kaine.
As well as being the writer and director, Kaine is also the front man for the ‘Glen Rowans’ featuring Ballarat band, Apex Bloom (Griffin McGookin, BJ Humphrey, Timothy O’Keefe) as the live band that performs throughout the show. In this telling, Ned Kelly (Ellen Marning) and his gang are fighting to establish the Queerdom of Slaytoria, free of a patriarchal and colonial society.
Along with Ned and his brother Dan Kelly (Monique Kerr), the other members of the gang consist of Joe Byrne (Erin McIntosh) and Steve Hart (Sunny Youngsmith) taking on multiple roles, and being hilarious as everyone is Sian Dowler.
As individuals, the cast are hysterical, but as a group they are almost too funny for words. They made me laugh so hard, there were times I was afraid I’d let out one of my infamous The Simpsons’ Dr Hibbert laugh sequels. As far as physical comedians go, Youngsmith is right up there, somehow still showing hilarious facial expressions under a beard made of their fellow gang members pubic hair.
The performers have all been given equal room to shine, despite Dowler not having a named part, she verges on stealing all the scenes she’s in and the number, ‘Dear Diary, Fuck You’ is the best example of this. Before the siege at the Glenrowan Inn, Joe Byrne has a crisis of conscience and at a therapist’s suggestion, writes it all down in a diary. Dowler is the diary. If I think about it now, I’ll happily laugh to myself too much.
As hilarious as, ‘Dear Diary, Fuck You’ is, the main theme, ‘We Put The Bush In Ranger’ has been stuck in my head and it’s been keeping me in a brilliant mood since. Listening to all the songs and still loving them, I’m now obsessed with Kaine as a musician and if you loved these songs, you must check out Apex Bloom, it will satisfy your musical itch after this show.
The costuming is as brilliantly campy as you’d expect, tasselled name badges on the gangs’ back with the manly facial hair swapped out for glitter beards for all except, Youngsmith, resulting in a character arc for the beardless Steve Hart that results in a payoff far greater than I could have expected. The ending will subvert all your expectations, but don’t worry, you’ll still hear Ned Kelly’s last words, “Such is life”. Kaine has just written them into a better context.
Ned Kelly: The Big Gay Musical is campier and wilder than you’d ever imagine. This is a production that would be just as effective on a larger stage and it actually deserves one. Seeing these performers with this material, performing to a larger audience would double the fun.
Ned Kelly: The Big Gay Musical is playing as part of the 2023 Melbourne International Comedy Festival until the 23rd of April.
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