Aridhi Anderson is a theatremaker, performer and reviewer based in Melbourne. Check out her work at aridhianderson.com.
A captivating performance of a deeply poetic new script
Party Snake by Kotryna Gesait is the story of a night with a drag queen after the party's over. Lachlan Martin delivers a sublime performance in this one-Queen-show, tenderly weaving the magic of Gesait's poetic script into the hearts and minds of a captivated audience.
Perfect hair, stunning makeup and a gorgeous dress - but the party's over and it's time to transform. The play opens with this decrescendo and immediately piques curiosity as we are offered a glimpse into the private thoughts and experience of someone who isn't quite ready for the night to be over. The wig finds rest on a mannequin head, the makeup is gently massaged off with oil - but what is revealed underneath isn't the physical appearance of the person who wore that bold, beautiful, and kinky exterior - but their soul.
Who are we really? What makes us who we are? Gesait draws inspiration from John Steinbeck's East of Eden, his exposition of the Hebrew word timshel - the idea that what we found in the garden was not sin, but choice. Martin performs Gesait's script with flawless conviction, seamlessly transforming from her evening identity as a gorgeous drag queen to his daytime identity as a primary school teacher, a role model for little children who know nothing about his exciting life outside school hours. Between these two identities is cocaine, alcohol, music, and a special little universe that the protagonist has created out of his dreams and the hope of their fulfilment.
Party Snake is a show about a specific person who feels deeply and struggles with the experience of living out identities that require careful management in mainstream society. It's also a show that holds up a mirror to every person as heirs of our shared human experience - we are all people who have different faces that we present in different situations, and we all have our private hopes and dreams and our special things that make us who we are individually.
Set in the protagonist's home, this show feels intimate and personal, and Gesait's writing, deeply poetic and abstract as it is, is also transparent and relatable. Martin's performance is breathtaking - his characterization, his timing, his smooth transformation from one identity to another, from one segment of the story to another, from one idea to another, is masterful. There is scarcely a moment in the hour where the audience isn't hanging on to every word, accessing every feeling and following every idea that is being put out in this rollercoaster ride.
Gesait's writing is unconventional, authentic, and brilliant. Every part of the work feels honest and fleshed out, flowing neatly through plateaus and peaks, circling between repeating themes and ideas, leaving the audience feeling satisfied and complete. There is not a single moment that feels forced or contrived. Party Snake is the kind of show that opens not only the audience's minds but also their hearts, allowing them not only to see the protagonist's deeply human experience but also to feel it, and to find themselves in it.
This show will give you goosebumps and will make a permanent place for itself in your heart and mind.