Imagine Blanche DuBois, Scarlett O'Hara and 'Maggie the Cat' all purring into one southern belle-inspired pastiche of a play. Now imagine a group of raucously camp boys and girls from Melbourne (known for reclaiming car parks and garages and packing them out as theatre spaces) swanning into the worlds of these histrionic heroines with all the high-voltage melodrama of Tennessee Williams and the precision of Carlotta.
Following this year's sell-out season of Little Mercy at Sydney Theatre Company, Sisters Grimm's new offering Summertime in the Garden of Eden takes us to the Civil War South, where the gentility of Georgia is reframed in drag and dosed with a (now trademark) mix of side-splitting comedy-horror.
Set amidst a phantasmagoria of high cotton and fluoro blossoms we meet the rambunctious Honey Sue, on her return to the family plantation after 10 years riding on the wind. Little sister Daisy May and Big Daddy are throwing a homecoming party, the first social occasion for Honey Sue at the Fairweather Estate since Big Daddy held a ball in her honour for her 16th birthday. That was the night Honey Sue ran away.
Agent Cleave as Daisy May Washington and Bessie Holland as Big Daddy. Photo by Marg Horwell
When Honey meets her sister's strapping fiancé Clive, things get complicated for Daisy May and Big Daddy's pretty violets in the greenhouse once more allure with their temptations of sin. With the gunfire of 1861 edging closer to the Fairweather doorstep, old Mammy's grip tightens around the pulsating household, as petticoats swish and nostrils flair.
Olympia Bukkakis as Honey Sue Washington. Photo by Marg Horwell
Deftly bringing the twisted heroines and naughty story to life are Bessie Holland (giving a fine baritone to a hefty role in Big Daddy), Genevieve Giuffre (with masterful management of Mammy), bearded angel Agent Cleave (as the eyelash-laden Daisy May), Peter Paltos (as Clive, a magnetic actor who with Giuffre and Sisters' Grimm co-creator Ash Flanders brought the house down at Bondi Pavilion in Psycho Beach Party this time last year) and the nimble and delectable Olympia Bukkakis (with the ultimate saucer-eyed swoon as Honey Sue).
Upending the dated rhetoric of 1950s Hollywood cinema with all its prickly gender, race and class issues is a winning formula for the talented Sisters Grimm (one half writer/creator Ash Flanders and one half writer/director Declan Greene). Audiences slip cosily into the genre, laying a perfect foundation for Greene's and Flanders' frighteningly witty plots and innate comic knowhow - a style no doubt perfected in Melbourne's suburban car parks and garages, where they blitzed the underworld fringe before selling out Walsh Bay.
Now with a string of hits to their name and more main stage work to come, Summertime is sure to be another theatrical cocktail Sydney can't put down. Catch it at Griffin Theatre before it's 'gone with the wind'.
Summertime in the Garden of Eden now showing at Griffin Theatre