Yummy is a performance presented in rich episodic tableau, with each scene ending then only to be replaced by another tangent, is a bit like the thought process of of a kid being let rampant in Willy Wonka’s factory, hell bent on eating all the sugary delights they can handle. Yummy, is a drag show not quite like any others you may of seen before, for here in a glittery hot mess, it’s not just fella’s in frocks lip syncing for their lives, but also women who take to the stage with much of the idea behind James Welsby’s performative love child to take the misogyny out of drag, while pushing a political agenda – the show’s title a reference to the Tasty Raids that took place here in Melbourne in 1994.
Drag as an art form is one that seems to be bursting at the seams, wanting to be taken out of the context of night clubs and gay bars, metamorphosed into something that has merit and taken seriously within the broader definition of performance art. Yummy is a fine example of this perceived notion of transgression, it borders on both contexts, offering something new for those who have seen drag, but also an example for those perhaps not so well versed – that sets the bar high.
Much of this success relies on the talent that Welsby has brought together for Yummy, it’s such a diverse and colourful ensemble, made up of seasoned performers, most of whom are names already known by many. As always, Yana Alana brings star power in bucket loads, the obscure and completely bizarre egg scene performed performed with Hannie Helsden perhaps the highlight of this performance. Her voice matched only by her exuberant physicality and the curvaceous larger than life on stage personality. Betty Grumble, perhaps one of the most beautifully deranged, neurotic and all together confronting burlesque performers, added a layer of perversity to the whole dynamic. Audience became unwittingly part of the action, watching James Andrews create a human sandwich was delightfully absurd.
However fantastical the performance was, it needed to be matched by even tighter production values, though there where certainly moments of brilliance, the Melba Spiegeltent is a strange beast, a venue grand in appearance and as such needs production values that match. Though there were glimpses of this grand notion, for instance when clouds of confetti would fall from the ceiling, or the unique and original use of an iPhone bringing a touch of theatrical magic. Though too often performers were left in the dark, perhaps a deliberate choice, it broke from the strong imagery being offered up by the ensemble as a whole.
A clearer narrative, not just reliant on witty humour, would have given audiences that little bit more to sink their teeth into, Yummy is a marathon effort, spanning two hours with one interval, it however could have been tighter if it was condensed into a single hour, though its long running time certainly provided enough bang for your buck.
It’s a late night show, the kind of adults only romp that one would be better to be stumbled upon after perhaps a few too many drinks, this kind of experience only Melbourne could truly offer up, in a sense that local audiences are hungry for something that pushes the envelope, how we embrace a late night culture, free of lock out laws, paired with having an insatiable appetite for all things a little left of centre.
Given further development time, this show could reach its full potential though perhaps extra time would of detracted from the raw and altogether edgy experience that is Yummy, though either way this show is certainly deserving of a second season.
Pics by Serge Thomann on iPhone