Review by Korey Brennan
A sure fire way to get this reviewers attention in an upcoming show is to represent LGBT issues in a positive and explorative environment. After reading the full spread on Cassandra and the Boy Doll in Scenestr, I was promised a performance that showed societies preconceived ideas of gender, and the effect they have on those who are non-conforming to this mould. The location of the show was a small space in. Niche corner of Bakery Lane in Fortitude a Valley, an adorable laneway crammed with bars and shops, exploding with life on this Saturday evening. I waited with a friend at the entrance to the lane, next to the Anywhere flag that marked the show would take place inside. After waiting quite some time before realising that no front of house staff were coming to assist, my friend and I moved into the lane, unsure of the venue, as the location was listed as “This must be the place”, deliberately vague and uncertain to someone new to this place as I was.
After eventually finding the location at the back of the laneway, I entered the space and was stunned by the sheer aesthetic artistry that had gone into transforming a space the size of a garage into a fully realised and conceptual universe. The charred crates juxtaposed against the delicate paper cranes scattered around haphazardly, as though a breeze had swept through and strewn them across the space. I was entranced by this sight before me, and was unsurprised then, when the lighting more than met the expectations of the setting. I was incredibly impressed with the vast range of lighting styles, and the design for Cassandra’s lighting was of an incredibly high standard. It was disappointing then, when I was sitting in the front of the audience and was barely able to make out the sound. It was tinny and soft, and I’m almost certain it was just played through the speakers of a laptop.
The themes of the performance were so wonderfully executed that I feel Cassandra’s message was conveyed effortlessly, which was necessary due to the seeming lack of conviction coming from her. While the actor training was evident in the other 4 members of the ensemble, I would hazard a guess that Cassandra was an inexperienced actor, whose story seemed entirely someone else’s due to her poor characterisation. Despite this shortcoming, the ensemble members more than made up for this. The three girls embodied the difficulties of fitting in as a trans woman with other women, and the “boy doll” character had incredibly physicality and tension in all of his time on stage, dominating my attention more than Cassandra.
Finally, in the true fashion of a transformation piece, Cassandra removed her simple black dress to reveal the golden gown beneath, truly showing the pride she had for herself and her gender. While doing this, the ensemble members erected an archway of golden paper cranes, creating a truly lasting final image. My understanding of Cassandra is that it was a blend of part contemporary theatre, and part visual performance art. There are moments throughout this piece that made me catch my breath. The visuals were, for lack of a better description, stunning, while I found myself losing attention when Cassandra was the focus.
All in all, I believe Cassandra is on the forefront of gender identity in society, and a true testament to trans theatre. With some witty humour, beautiful staging and intriguing light design, I would highly recommend this show due to its touching story and overwhelming positive visuals, though be prepared to go right to the back corner of Bakery Lane, and not to be fooled by the flag placement!
Cassandra and the Boy Doll runs for the following dates at 7:00pm
8th, 12th, 13th, 14th, 15th, 19th, 20th, 21st of May
Tickets are available from the following link: http://anywherefest.com/event/cassandra/all/