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Chapel off Chapel has been an arts and entertainment venue since the good burghers of the City of Stonnington had the foresight to purchase it from the Uniting Church in the 1990s. So why does it remain such a hidden gem? This little venue deserves to be out and proud for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that you can buy not just a glass but a bottle of wine and take it in to a theatre with you. And if you are the abstemious type and prefer to purchase your frothies by the glass, the tide is most definitely IN. Brimming in fact. Tick and tick.
Oh and the productions are pretty darn interesting too.
Take the latest production for example. FAT PIG is a delight from start to finish. Neil Labute's dialogue is seamless and (for the most part) hilarious. There are some lessons in there for after-theatre digestion, but they are served with a dainty dessert fork rather than a trowel. In a nutshell (enough food references already), metrosexual male meets fat girl, then has to deal with the fallout when his equally metro friends and colleagues find out that she is not a size 8 chickie babe with toned abs and sculpted biceps. More of a tuckshop lady with fedoobedas* to match.
But this particular tuckshop lady has a beautiful soul which, surprisingly, our hero Tom (Lyall Brooks) can see from their first meeting in – where else- the Food Court. Their spontaneous chitchat sparks a very believable mutual interest that leads to an attraction on both sides. Helen (an inspired choice in Lulu McClatchy) is bright, funny and engaging – she just happens to be a plus size gal. Her character is utterly believable. Tom's colleagues, played by Patrick Harvey and Cassandra Magrath) are more one-dimensional, but even they are allowed the occasional glimpse of humanity amongst the sea of size-ist bile that makes up the bulk of their conversation.
So who is this playwright, one asks? He must be an excellent Aussie bloke with just enough of the SNAG in him to capture the nuances of male/female relationships with ease. Au contraire mes amis! Mr Labute is not a bloke at all – he's a guy! An American film director, screenwriter and playwright. As if that's not enough of an achievement for one person, the man has a distinctly un-American sensibility. Too harsh? Possibly.
But don't take this reviewer's word for it – develop some prejudices of your own. You've only got till October 20 to head down to Chapel Off Chapel and witness for yourself a rollicking good yarn in salubrious environs at a very affordable price. Frothies optional. Wake up Melbourne!
fedoobeda (noun) : The part of skin and flesh that hangs from the upper arm when the arm is outstretched. The "oo" is short, as in "book". [From Australian TV series "Kath and Kim"]